Scholars' Association News
Issue 42
June 2017


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Festivals at the Onassis Cultural Centre and elsewhere: Fast Forward Festival 4

The Onassis Cultural Centre, Omonia Square, Syntagma Square, the port of Piraeus and Drapetsona were transformed with vibrant interventions from interactive artists from around the globe. Fast Forward Festival 4 included world premières and works commissioned by the Onassis Cultural Centre: installation, tours, screenings, exhibitions, seminars and workshops.

According to Katia Arfara, the festival's Artistic Director, Fast Forward Festival 4 focuses on the concept of "home", both physical and mental, temporary and permanent, familiar and unfamiliar. The international and Greek artists participating in Fast Forward Festival 4 attempt to get spectators involved in vibrant artistic interventions that cross the border between installation, performance, cinema and architecture, as well as public and private space.

“Can art be viewed as an alternative to the dominant models of life? Can an artistic project shake up current global strategies of precarization and see a return of its political aspect? Can artists create new public spaces which tear down the dominant mechanisms of entrenchment and overcome the social stigma associated with 'elsewhere'?" Those are just a few of the key questions that this year's festival sought to address.

As part of the site-specific project Piraeus/Heterotopia, the internationally acclaimed artist Akira Takayama worked with 7 poets, novelists and thinkers from around the world (Kyoo Lee, Rabih Mroué, Thodoris Rakopoulos, Keijiro Suga, George Szirtes, Deniz Utlu, and Chen Yu-Chin). In the first European version of this much-talked-about project which was launched in Tokyo in 2013, Piraeus and its centuries long refugee past are revealed as a 'heterotopia', an 'other' place that is unknown, yet familiar, mythical year real. Equipped with smartphones, apps and maps, spectators (seen as perambulating geographers) are invited to re-discover the site through an audio-walk mapping loaded with historical memories, myths and tales (2-14 May 2017).

At the Piraeus/Heterotopia project starting point, the video art project Piraeus/Heterochronia by Hikaru Fujii is also being screened, which records four dialogues with people who live in the area around the clock tower of the Silo down in the port of Piraeus. Piraeus/Heterochronia does not depict the history of Piraeus, but mirrors “the time of otherness” (which is what the word “heterochronia” means) of the interviewees, who live or endure Piraeus' reality, which is interwoven with its complicated history. Each interviewee in this video has their own life, background, and time, which is different. But to show the flow of real time they have in common, four dialogues were conducted and filmed at the same time on consecutive days. It was an invitation for spectators to travel into this time of otherness, to feel all these different times -the time of otherness and actual time as it unfolds- intersecting.

Who else but artist and sculptor Gregor Schneider, considered to be one of the leading exponents of new conceptual art, winner of the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Biennale, could make Omonia Square 'disappear'? Using camouflage techniques and connecting it with the sense of invisibility of this historical square when seen from on high, Gregor Schneider's Invisible City intervenes in the urban landscape, shifting the center, the very navel of Athens, to the fine line where visible meets invisible and art meets metaphysics. Omonia Square, 8 to 21 May.

The much-talked-about, ongoing "radioactive" project entitled Don't Follow the Wind, inspired by the nuclear accident at Fukushima, was presented for the first time on European soil (2–14 May). The curators (Chim↑Pom, Kenji Kubota, Eva and Franco Mattes, Jason Waite), who invited 12 artists in 2015 to set up works inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone thereby "condemning" them to remain unseen perhaps forever, mobilized a host of artists to create a shadowy cast of that project, called Don’t Follow the Wind located in an abandoned building in Athens (the Classical Acropol Hotel in Omonia Square): original works explore the state of Greece in dialogue with Fukushima, present a family which remained in the contaminated zone, and provide a forum for populations violently displaced on our planet.

On 6 May, the Onassis Cultural Centre's Upper Stage hosted a public presentation of the Workshop: "We Refugees, Α Scenario for a Schizoanalytical Seminar" by Ayreen Anastas and René Gabri. The workshop ran from 2 to 5 May and looked at the home we all see but no-one can get close to. The artists Ayreen Anastas and René Gabri invited a group of participants to spend 5 days together producing a seminar performed as a film which they shot all together, in order to then share it with the public. The scenario for this seminar performed as a film draws inspiration from the works of Felix Guattari on schizoanalysis, and Bertolt Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt (the distancing effect) among other things. The basic premise is that by producing a space between an ordinary seminar and ordinary play acting, a very interesting analytic and performative space can be born, one which may be fruitful in creating potent aesthetic, analytic, and political experiences.

Co-produced with the Onassis Cultural Centre, Sanctuary, a new performance - installation by the South African director and artist Brett Bailey, who sent ripples through the art world with his Exhibit B, presented at last year's Fast Forward Festival, received its world première in Athens at the Onassis Cultural Centre. A leading humanist and critic of post-colonial Europe, Bailey was inspired by the myth of the Minotaur and created a labyrinthine installation offering a surreal tour of the European Union in this age of crisis at the Port of Piraeus, Gate E2, Petrini Apothiki (Stone Warehouse). Prison, asylum, temple or altar, Sanctuary employs a hieratical visual language to expose homes lost, homes threatened and homes yearned for through a series of tableaux vivants charged with symbolism. They are populated by people -refugees, migrants, activities and interpreters- aged 20 to 70. (3‒7 and 9‒10 May 2017).

Evros Walk Water 1 & 2 by Daniel Wetzel / Rimini Protokoll was hosted in the Onassis Cultural Centre's exhibition hall from 3 to 8 May. The leading German exponents of the "theatre of reality" staged an imaginative, thought-provoking audiovisual performance-installation for young and old at its world première in Athens, combining the adventures of 6 unaccompanied child migrants with the musical imagination of John Cage and concept of liberation. 6 child refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, who met Daniel Wetzel in Athens in 2015 for the first time, became conductors, and facilitators so-to-speak, for the spectators in a real dialogue about the boundaries of democracy and justice.

An alternative "haunted house" An interactive installation held at an extramural venue sprang up in the heart of the city in Syntagma Square (9-14 May). Premièring worldwide in Greece, Phobiarama invites us into a black tent to dive down into its abyss to break the hold whatever we fear has over us, be it: international terrorism, the economic crisis, or political disappointment. A project by the acclaimed Dutch artist and director Dries Verhoeven.

The internationally renowned choreographer and scholar Zoi Dimitriou, presented Peregrinus, a participative, labyrinthine, peripatetic experience outside the Onassis Cultural Centre's confines (10-14 May). Performers and spectators got into a van with the windows blacked out and were taken on a trip that ends at a labyrinthine installation. The London-based choreographer stands out for her minimalist vocabulary and narrative style so evocative of this time. In a world first, Greece hosted Peregrinus (Latin for pilgrim or foreigner) which explores in kinesiological and experiential terms, the issue of imposed nomadism. Acclaimed British researcher Joe Kelleher worked on the dramaturgy.

The extreme life of two residents of Chernobyl who refused to abandon the place after the 1986 nuclear accident forms the raw materials for this performance/filmic installation from Berlin, a dynamic duet of artists from Antwerp, who visited Nadia and Pétro and filmed their daily life for 5 years in the ghost village of Zvizdal in Chernobyl's radioactive exclusion zone. Zvizdal [Chernobyl – so far so close], featuring Nadia and Pétro Opanassovitch Lubenoc, on the Onassis Cultural Centre's Main Stage on 10 and 11 May, is a moving chronicle to loneliness and companionship, destruction and survival.

On 13-14 May the Onassis Cultural Centre and the New York-based Creative Time organized an international symposium "On Homelands and the Stateless as the World Tilts Right". Taking its cue from the Fast Forward Festival’s thematic interest in transcending borderlines, the symposium brought together seven international and two Greek panels of artists, curators, cultural administrators, and organizers to provide geographically diverse, transdisciplinary, on-the-ground accounts of political and aesthetic tactics to effectively mobilize in the face of statelessness, virulent nationalism, and increasingly precarious livelihoods. The symposium sought to address the challenges facing progressive artists and activist communities under prevailing economic and political conditions. It is the first joint event organized by the Fast Forward Festival and Creative Time, curated by Katia Arfara and Nato Thompson, Creative Time's Artistic Director.

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