Scholars' Association News
Issue 35
July 2015


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Image of the city: Glimpses of another Athens
By Io Paschou

After a successful event about photography and the city of Athens hosted in partnership with the Onassis Foundation in November 2013, the Onassis Foundation’s Scholars Association revisited the subject in June this year taking a wider approach to the topic. This time guests from all the arts and sciences gave talks taking us on a tour of a different Athens, not just using the medium of photography but also film, theatre, literature, architecture, and modern artistic approaches.

The aim of the event held at the Onassis Cultural Centre on 9 June was to take a new look at Athens from within, to discover small cities and neighbourhoods, as well as the city’s history and narrative. To achieve this the speakers explored the following set of questions:

- How can we portray our city at night?

- How can stage sets capture and portray the changing urban space of Athens and the dynamic relationships developing there?

- How can Athens redefine its identity in post-modern literature through the eyes of a narrator wandering the city?

- How well do we know Athens’ stoas?

- What relationship does the city have with its ancient monuments?

To help us redefine our relationship with day-to-day life in the urban landscape, speakers at the event presented Athens viewed through their own artistic, theoretical, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral eyes. Particular reference was made to the work of young artists living and studying in Athens, looking at how they are gradually discovering it step-by-step by photographing it, and how it’s approached by their professors in the Department of Photography and Audiovisual Media at the Athens Technological Educational Institute (Nikos Apostolopoulos, Giangos Athanaspoulos, Kostas Thomopoulos). At the same time, the approach taken by amateur photographers, tourists and residents as a source of inspiration helped provide a new reading of photographs taken by amateurs in past decades (talk by Io Paschou).

Some of the stimulating speakers at the event were director Tasos Boulmetis, Ioanna Kondyli (Asst. Professor of Civil Law from the University of Athens), literature academics Titika Karavia (Adjunct Lecturer at the Open Univeristy of Cyprus) and Peggy Karpouzou (Lecturer at the University of Athens) and architects Maria Mira and Magda Sgouridi. Renowned Greek director Lakis Papastathis took us on a special trip through time exploring the never-ending transformation of Omonia Square in an exceptional documentary produced by Paraskinio.

From the world of the visual arts, the Onassis scholars and painters Thodoros Zafiropoulos, Erifyli Veneri (along with Loukas Bartatilas) and Edyta Masior provided inventive presentations exploring the experience of travels to other European countries as a way of redefining our relationship with the city of Athens.

The event facilitators played an important, decisive role, posing questions and drawing conclusions that fostered a climate of dialogue between the audience and speakers. The first and last sessions were dedicated to photography and art and were facilitated by the visual artist Angeliki Svoronou. The second which took us on a trip around the city through theatre, literature and architecture was facilitated by Kostas Tsimbaos, lecturer from the School of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens. At the third session we enjoyed the discussion between Tasos Boulmetis and Lakis Papastathis, and in the penultimate session Panagiotis Tournikiotis, Professor of the Theory of Architecture at the NTUA brought together presentations relating to how we can study the city as archival material.

It was a great honour to have the French Professor of the History of Architecture from Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris 1) Jean-Philippe Garric, head of the LABEX CAP research programme, in attendance. He used specific photographic archives of 19th century Rome to indicate the need to reinterpret Athens based on its history, by examining photographs that lie in archaeological collections or museums but have not yet been studied.

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