Rambo is missing his brothers!

Burnt Christmas tree and police, in Athens Greece

Veiled in a cloud of national bereavement, I am here to write about art, but first there will be an introduction.

The peaceful demonstrations, the protests, the riots, the rallies, and finally what it seemed to be a civil unrest began taking place in Athens, Greece on Saturday, December 6th, 2008.  Earlier that evening, a policeman in downtown Athens for who the f*** knows why shot dead a 15 year-old high-school student.  Despite the fact that the policeman has been charged with murder, this devastating incident was the tip of the iceberg for the Greek youth, who have been left with no room to dream of a future; for my generation, which is also widely known as the “€ 700 generation”; for those in mid-life confronted with dead-ends and for the senior citizens, who gasp hopelessly – unable to make a dignified exit.

It’s important to clarify that (a) the groups who are peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Athens with (b) those who are strategically attacking civil offices and (c) the left-winged union demonstrators along with (d) those who excel in Molotov cocktail and rock hurling plus (e) everybody else in between are different groups of people. It is unfair to homogenize the aforementioned groups and further criticize a society based on who is the loudest.

I condemn all forms of violence and vandalism and I have been firm on this since the very beginning. Yet in a cloud of ambiguity the media, a political party and many civilians justified the mayhem and fed its appetite. A state of simmering pandemonium stamped this holiday season and with no further delay, a bloody dialogue was set in motion in the early hours of January 5th, 2009. Thirty Kalashnikov shots were fired towards three policemen who were guarding the Ministry of Culture. The gunmen sealed the attack with a grenade. A 21 year-old policeman was wounded and still remains in critical condition.

Both shootings took place in Exarchia, in downtown Athens. When asked about January 5th, a middle-age female resident of the area said with confidence to a news reporter “I heard Kalashnikov shots been fired.” Who can distinguish the type of a gun by its shots in the middle of the night in Athens? The death of the student has sparked the worst riots for decades, which escalated to be a sociopolitical vendetta. Is this a society of an eye for an eye?

Why is this all happening? For way too many reasons that go too far back, but most importantly because the Greek gluttonous government in power since 2004 is digging a hole and inviting us all to jump in.  For the last 18 months, new scandals make weekly headlines, there isn’t even enough time to react in between – the lethal combination of a corrupted government and a lethargic Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, is what we’re left with at a time of severe economic stagnation, a chronic lack of meritocracy, an endless list of social injustices and continuous brutality towards protestors, which in this case were often teenagers, by the state.

How could I ever link this intro to the art postings I’ll upload from Athens for you in the following days? Maybe I can’t and maybe I shouldn’t and for that I have to say this now.

Art may echo this page of Greek contemporary history, but I’m not convinced it’s entirely necessary unless we’re willing to individually evaluate the role of art within the contemporary Greek society and further admit openly the kind of voice it has for each one of us, and then get on with our day.  There is life after art and if artists are willing to react, or make a stand, they are not obliged to call it art – an artist is also a citizen.  If anybody finds comfort in turning this into some careerist driven niche, I’ll personally stay away. An open dialogue that’s not addressed exclusively to the intellectual elite can be an initial answer to our racing thoughts.

Sometimes we come closer to art outside the art world. On December 19th, 2008 mainly through facebook and other social networking sites, a call to decorate with trash the 2nd erected Christmas tree for 2008 – on Syntagma square was widely distributed. The first one was literally lit right after the student’s shooting. Despite the preceded events, the mayor of Athens was determined to feel the Christmas spirit by putting everything behind us. The tree was guarded throughout the remaining holiday season.

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The optimistic side is that I live in a society that the loss of a 15 year-old life still matters. And I want to believe that it equally does when another life is put at risk. What’s pessimistic is the outlook of those who found the protests incomprehensible, it’s frightening that, that too has to be explained.

Stay with me the next couple of days, and I promise to stick to what I know and to what you come here for.


  1. Thulani Earnshaw says:

    Georgia yes more then ever now there is a fine line now about weather to stay true to the studio(and the once private side of art) or “juggle” the political-social necessity to say something in one’s community. I am glad Greece has stood up for the youth that was killed and i aggree violence is not the answer

    Thulani

    enjoyed the read-you go girl!

    Reply

  2. Madison Moore says:

    “Art need no longer be an account of past sensations. It can become the direct organization of more highly involved sensations. It is a question of producing ourselves not things that enslave us.”

    -Guy Debord
    International Situationist No.1 (Paris , June 1958)

    Reply

  3. bustadream says:

    Ordo ab Chao
    Your government is like any other that has ever been and will be. Government corruption is not a recent phenomenon and realize the 700 euros you get is authorized from Brussels, your new master. You have to know your idea of your country’s sovreignty is politically over. Remember, you voted for it.
    The time for examining our navels is over and it appears to me that is what contemporary art has been about for years. Most artists are tools and authorized by the very governments they complain about. When you take the non-prof fiat cash or whatever form of aid you receive,you tacitly approve their criminal actions. So don’t complain too much or they might take their 700 euros elsewhere.
    Welcome to the new world order.
    B.D.

    Reply

  4. thando says:

    hey Georgia, nice one. somehow i could not help but think of the sowetho uprising in 1976 here in south africa, when the state police open fire and kill hector peterson. this i saw through on BBC news, as if i was looking at the chaos that followed the riots here some 32 years ago. but the world does not get better. look at what is happening in palestine today. a war on people without defense. look at what is happening in zimbabwe, you would think that idi amin is back from the grave. but governments do nothing to improve relations amongst its people and others. for us is the issue of xenophobia, and political chaos. but Georgia, us as artists have been moving away from any meaningful contribution to the struggles of our people. as artists and citizens of our own countries lost of life in your country still matters, as a dozen children lives in gaza.

    Reply

    Georgia Kotretsos Reply:

    Good to hear from you Thando. We’re on the same page, I agree with you 100% – although putting forward a constructive idea is not easy yet. As long as we remain sensitive to the world around us – solutions and answers may become crystal clear with time.

    There isn’t one type of artist out there, thus I hesitate to load this weight on everyone’s back.

    Reply

  5. It’s nice to see you writing here Georgia. Nice post. I’ll get back to this for a few thoughts, just wanted to say well done for now.

    Reply

  6. George says:

    This post, in my opinion addresses accurately the current art politics of our society. The manifestation of the symbolic gesture to fill the Christmas tree with trash may lead to the formation of a public artist with an activist’s conscious, who we’re most certainly missing from the foreground of our local art-scape.

    Reply

  7. Khwezi Gule says:

    I am hoping to get hold of Thulani Earnshaw and to see what he has been up to lately. I last met him at the JOhannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. I am also interested in reconnecting with Georgia whose email I dont have anymore.

    Thanks
    Khwezi

    Reply

  8. Thulani Earnshaw says:

    this article is by Georgia Kotretsos:)

    Reply

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