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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 May 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 27 MAY 2017 21 COMMENT I was enjoying some vegetarian food, the next, there were all these guys with masks and wheelie bins, and a riot was taking place. It came out of nowhere. [. . .] The streets were barricaded, and then the police started tear-gassing everybody. [. . .] Athens is slightly lawless. But that's one of the nicest things about it. It's a really exciting place." Yes, some of us couldn't handle this kind of excitement, so we opted to move to uneventful Melbourne in- stead. All this talk of a newfound status is partly due to the fact that one of the world's leading art events is taking place in the city. ‘Documenta’, usually held every five years in Kassel, Germany, chose Athens as its first co-host city, inviting the cream of the crop to present the cutting edge in contemporary art. Apparently, artists love a city plagued by poverty, unemployment, and political divide. It is under these situations, this kind of adversity, that great art thrives, so yes, the Art elite has its eyes focused on Athens at the moment, hoping that the city will become the incubator for the next 'Dada' or 'Fluxus' movement. After all, it took a massacre to create 'Guernica', no? What is happening now in Athens is hardly a massacre, although some analysts already discuss a 'sacrificed' generation, deprived of any means to strive and advance. So, yes, a part of them decides to fight back. Some try their luck in start-ups, others become artists. Add to the mix a wave of migration, adding to the migrant communities that have inhabited the city for decades, and it is clear how Athens is transforming to a financially poor, but culturally rich city. Its vibrant artistic community and underground scene has already made some proclaim Athens as being 'the New Berlin', a reference to the German capital's status in the early 90s, after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall had made it a melting pot of communities and cultures. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because, as useful as it might be for the media to describe something as 'the new something else', it is also misleading. Proclaiming Athens as 'the New Berlin' is as valid as it is proclaiming it 'the New Istanbul', or the 'New Tel Aviv' (both cities which thrived culturally in the 2000s, sharing more cultural similarities with Athens than Berlin). Because by comparing it to any other city, these articles miss the point: Athens is just Athens. A modern, busy, dirty city, one of the ugliest in the world, with chaotic traffic and terrible planning, which is still, for all its ugliness, surprisingly welcoming to strangers and pleasant to walk through and discover its - scarce, hidden beautiful parts (apart from the obvious Parthenon). It has an energy of its own, which makes it what it is. It does not need approval from the art and leisure establishment.
20 May 2017
3 June 2017