2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

12 Acropolis in Aegiali-Amorgos

Some people are thankful to find art even at the smallest place they visit. I am one of them and though Aegiali is not really the smallest or surely not the least visited place, I do find it amazing that someone decided to organize an art project on annual basis. Every summer and for the two busiest months, July and August, Dimitris Eliadis invites artists to make work on site changing the alley of his restaurant-guest house “12 Acropolis” into an art space. The project is called “αέναες συμπτώσεις” (perpetual coincidences) and from this year on it is showing mainly Greek artists.

Needless to say that I came across 12 Acropolis by pure coincidence. I was told by a friend, through another friend that there is an art project going on at Aegiali. We went to Amorgos, two adults and a five year old, with the idea to stay at Katapola solely getting on a bus to visit the Chora (the main town) and Agia Anna (the big blue).

On our last day in Amorgos we decided to rent a car and go a bit further than where the bus would bring us. Not that the island is so big or that there is no transport. On the contrary, I thought that all was well arranged and timely. In any case the roads are fixed since my last visit, 25 years ago; of course they are. Still, crossing the mountain from Katapola to Aegiali on a mysteriously misty day did see for an adrenaline shot followed by a light headache. Aegiali is the Northern port of the island, a town pushed to the sea by a mountain bulk starting right behind the houses. Small houses, big mountain, you loose a bit the sense of proportion. The works of Maria Letsiou soothed the tension with their delicate lines and colours. Maria ordered the works like a travel diary “1st day”, “2nd day”. Going toward the last days I could see that the colour moved to lighter hues; the shattering light of the island imposed itself on the mood and the eyes; the forms adjusted to the evenness that heat and peace on an island like Amorgos bring and thus became more inclusive.

I had the chance to see only the first of the six planned presentations, but here they are all six with their starting dates and titles:

Maria Letsiou- αιθέρια δημιουργήματα (ethereal creations) – 19 July

Elli Griva – εικαστική παρέμβαση σε δημόσιο χώρο (artistic intervention in public space) – 28 July

Efi Zigouri – κατασκευές/παράλληλη έκθεση (constructions/ parallel exhibition) – 28 July

Daniel Rodrigo Tortosa – therapy through art workshop – 6 August

Marina Provatidou – 7 ζωές ο γατόκοσμος μέσα μου (7 lives cat-life inside me) – 7 August

Nike Roubani – διαθλάσεις (refractions) – 13 August

Maria Letsiou at the 12 Acropolis
Day 8 on the island
Day 12 on the island
The mist on the mountain; from Katapola to Aegiali

Avoiding clichés in a natural way

“To take you with, to let your mind wander”, this is a standard answer to the question “How should an artwork affect us?”. It has become cliché as much as the more sharp “to punch you in the stomach, to make you aware of our shitty world”, “to move you so that you act, to shake your passiveness”. Sorry, clichés.”To reveal the truth of things” is the option that would please the artists’ ears. Great masters fall in there, from Goya to Cézanne (with his appleyness: the apple as itself) and Francis Bacon with his portraits digging under the faces of his models. This is a serious endeavour, to find the truth of things, but in the end it becomes as hopeless as finding god, any god. Mostly, it is a goal understood by artists but not by the audience. And even artists working under this rule often fall in deeper clichés than they think. And in the end the expectancy of greatness (the godly element, the truth) becomes the word cliché itself.

I have a dear friend, painter, who maybe because of her peculiarity as a person she has never fallen in clichés at her work. Where others try to break the aesthetic rules learnt at the art academy “in order to make their own language”, Ismene Assimaki just paints images that belong nowhere. Her themes are as humble as one can think: mainly conversations between dogs, cats, furniture, objects of a closed environment; at least this is what she says. What we see is the absolute silence of things that once existed in a space shaped to fit a past or a future; the present is left out to be lived. Having worked side by side with her, even before we entered the academy, and having shared wild musics, crazy stories, a lot of laughter and equal flaws – up to now that our uniqueness has been a bit blunted – I can only hope that her little studio will bring out a new series and a new exhibition, after so many years! Ismene, please do surprise us again!

The photographs were taken during my recent visit to her house at Kalamaki on the coast of Athens. It was a hot day, like all the others, around 40 degrees Celsius, but I was determined to see her in her space again.

The artist next to one of her paintings, at Kalamaki-Athens, July 2012
the studio, part of the house
Painting and objects in the same aesthetic line
An older work, next to the main door

Who’s afraid of Greece?

Greece is a place where you do go and with very few prerequisites. You may be asked to wear long pants and cover your shoulders when you enter a monastery or a church but apart from that I cannot think of something that does not pass in tolerance regarding visitors. In Greece visitors are sacred; it has been so since the ancient times because gods would visit quite often disguised into strangers. That the Greek filoxenia (filo= friend, xenos= stranger) has been abused by drunkards from Northern Europe since mass tourism was invented is to be blamed to both sides. To me it has been more striking the non solidarity between groups of  “friends” partying on Greek islands. It still haunts me the image of a girl sleeping face down on the floor of the camping toilets with the mobile telephone in her hand attached to the plug; none of her friends came by to pick her up till the morning. Greeks have many flaws but when it comes to friends and family they are there; still, the visitor will always eat first and the best piece. Speaking of solidarity, the last years Greeks have been accused mainly from the other Europeans of several evils, some true but most of them untrue. The biggest fault is that they fail to pay their bills or even worse that they threaten the wellbeing of their friends. The latest expression of this threat is the option to exit the euro zone very soon. Without exactly knowing if, when and how this could happen, the Europeans (that soon may have to change their names to something non Greek if they want to be consequent) are given the advice to take extra cash with them when visiting Greece. Because: cash machines may not have banknotes. Also, they are worried that there may not be gas for their hired cars and no breakfast served at the hotels. This brings to mind people who take in their luggage peanut butter because there may not be any at the country where they are going. Well, I suggest to take your chances. I am sure that there is everything you might need, but maybe it is a good exercise to imagine yourself spending two weeks without much.

My advice: go without fear and look around for the most friendly wilderness of the world.

P.S. Challenge makes the brain sparkle; comfort sedates it. It’s up to you.

+1 reason for visiting Santorini island this summer

Deadline for submissions: 19 May 2012
Exhibition dates: 1 July – 30 September 2012
Theme: The Past – History, Time, Memory and Nostalgia
Website: http://www.santorinibiennale.gr/

I have no other information than what is published on their website, but the fact itself that an exhibition of high expectations will be held on the island-experience of Santorini is already attractive. The organizers are Greek but the curatorial team is mostly international; also international will hopefully be the exhibitors’ team. It is curious to me why they separate the art fields in such detail yet leave out textile art (for example) which  is actually booming. Also curious is the lateness of the call for artists. I wonder how they will select and collect in no time.

Despite all, here is why you should consider submitting work or just visiting the exhibition:

1) It is a project in its birth and – as with any birth – worth sharing.

2) The venues will be spread on the island but the main focus will not be on the highly touristic places (if that can be said for any corner of Santorini).

3) You have a chance to contribute in breaking the “sold and bought with pleasure” degenerate image “ouzo-souvlaki-sun tan lotion” that is far from what Greece is about, even in modern times.

4) This year, after 7 years of being closed, the archeological site of Akrotiri, Santorini’s prehistoric city, is again open. You must have seen in books or on the web the frescos discovered there; well, this is the place itself! The people had left, apparently nature had warned them well, so there are no bodies nor jewellery found like in Pompey. What you see in the site itself is a prehistoric town with houses and roads, practically saved by the lava.

5) Santorini is a place that you must have seen, point. There are hundreds of  islands in Greece, each one with its own character and beauty. But, the breath taking view of the caldera, the walk on the black sand of Kameni, the swim in the dark blue waters at the other side of the island, this volcano burnt theater that is called Thera (Santorini) is unique beyond commentary. Just imagine now being part of it as an artist!

P.S. September is the best month to visit; not terribly crowded, somewhat cooler air, sea warmed up by the summer.

Vivid conversations with antiquity

2012: on track

The new year means battle in the streets of The Hague which starts in the morning of 31 December with junior crackers and ends late in the night after the year change with major noise and flame attacks. Smoke and  dust pass by the windows and fire residues cover all the flat surfaces. There are also casualties; eye injuries mostly, but sometimes arms and ears also fall. Half of the population can’t wait to fire up the year, the other half tries to ignore it.

For the new year, apart from the essentials, only one wish: to reset course, to avoid deviations more and more.

This concerns me personally but applies to all the new years of the last 20 years at least, more generally. I remember discussing with friends in the small studio at Erressou street in Athens, year 1995, how much our world had lost connection to its basis wandering off course and in purposeless bliss (or was it agony); maybe just an imprinted image from the science fiction series ‘Space 1999’, maybe just a clear look. Nevertheless, now with the financial crisis, many voices are heard describing the same, as a situation to reverse towards a solution. That brings to mind the anti-consumerism exercises, a game that amused me for years; very simply long visits to the market without buying anything at all. Later, the more my time was eaten up by irrelevant to my course duties, the more I felt the need to consume; mind in blur, strength shut down, submission. Never in excess though and quite reversible, believe me.

For our health’s sake let it be a reset year; 2012 on track.

Help someone, 2010, embroidery