Flash Points

Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis

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The Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis symposium recently took place on Saturday, January 10 at the Benaki Musuem on Pireos Street in Athens, Greece.

Co-organized by Costis Stafylakis and Yorgos Tzitzilakis, the symposium was an initiative of the Architecture Department, University of Thessaly.

Soon after the symposium, I met with Stafylakis to tell me about the occasion of the symposium:

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The panels:

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Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, Vanessa Theodoropoulou, Aristides Antonas, George Ksiropaides

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Zisis Kotionis, Elpida Karaba, Giannis Stavrakakis, Kostis Stafylakis, Panagis Panagiotopoulos

Associate Professor, Ph.D. Program in Art History at the City University of New York, Claire Bishop’s lecture focused on socially-engaged art and spectatorship. Here is an excerpt of her presentation where she discusses The Margate Exodus and filmmaker Christoph Schlingensief.

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Directed by Penny Woolcock, Exodus was made in Margate and was broadcast on Channel 4 and released in cinemas in 2007.

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As Till Briegleb explains on Schlingensief’s website:

Christoph Schlingensief creates a permanent state of insecurity by blurring borders between reality and fiction, art and offense, intention and action. This often works brilliantly with his off-stage antics: most passers-by thought the Big Brother show with asylum-seekers in the centre of Vienna, where the last one to be ejected is supposed to win a residence permit, was real. There was also his staging of Hamlet in Zurich, for which he not only recruited officially repentant neo-Nazis, but also created a rehabilitation centre for their kin, triggered a heated debate on the credibility of this kind of stunt.

Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis was a call to the art community in Athens following the puzzling events of December 2008. The Benaki auditorium was packed from 10:30am, and that visually was a much stronger statement that any of the panelists could make that day.

I was a witness of excessive intellectual talk, valid efforts to assert historicity into December 2008, and attempts to contextualize isolated gestures and narrations of the events—without a period at the end. It was all necessary, respected and much needed, yet I got the sense this past December had left most panelists in an intellectual corner, unable to take a step into tomorrow. But it is also ok if they struggle to process the new conditions that constitute our society at the beginning of 2009.

But in my opinion, Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis accomplished three fundamental things:

The Christening
The symposium was the day of giving names to the events, the causes, and the month of December. A language that allows us to communicate the events among ourselves was established and that is IMPORTANT.

How left?/How right?
The symposium placed the Greek art world, as if it was a pawn on a charged political map at a light “left” position without provoking, offending, or talking on behalf of any of the attendees, and that is IMPORTANT at this stage.

Venting
Artists, architects, curators, sociologists, and art theorists kept on putting their thoughts on the table for an entire day and that is IMPORTANT for everybody’s mental and emotional well-being.

There is no next move, it’s up for grabs and that is UNCERTAIN.

Georgia Kotretsos was Art21’s first guest blogger of 2009. Find all of her posts here.


  1. Daniel Quiles says:

    I like that you leave the future very much “uncertain”; a good way to account for the future! But why do you think the institution’s “light” political attitude was “important?”

    Reply

  2. Marc Herbst says:

    I am recently taken by the idea of agonism, the political ideal of a political system bent on allowing for dissonance. (mouffe and laclau)
    I like this ideal because in my understanding it seems partially based on the notion that culture thrives in the flowerings of dissonance and that it is not the state’s roll to understand and diminish dissonance but more so to mediate it. Thus conferences that boldly state and embrace uncertainty definitely seem to be embodying and fostering a most productive site for accademia, inspiring questioning.

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