The following issue will be an open report about the participation of frontviews at ReMap4, an art festival in Athens, which took place in September 2014. “Open report” means in that context a collection of text samples from different authors and selected pictures also from different members of the group: Vassiliea Stylianidou (GR), Nisaar Ulama (D), Vincent Grunwald (D), Leon Kahane (D), Stella Geppert (D) and Stephan Köhler (D).
The aim is to offer different inside views on the situation concerning the districts of Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio in Athens, the goals of the festival and nevertheless the role of drifting artists as a forerunners of cultural and social segregation.
Introduction of frontviews
Frontviews is the common platform for an international collective of artists and theorists aiming to offer a collaborative panel, whereabouts exceptional positions and concepts in contemporary art are capable of freely reaching fruition. Based in Berlin and without a settled art space we develop different formats of exhibitions in collaboration with different associations and galleries in Germany and abroad. Origins of the collective were initially established in the exhibition space of former Frontviews Gallery by Karmin Kartowikromo (*01.12.1948 – † 06.06.2011), Emmo Grofsmid (*29.12.1951 – † 06.06.2011), and Curating Assistant, Stephan Köhler.
Four main points shape our agenda: 1. the contention with the new space at each new exhibition, 2. the investigation for acute themes, acute tendencies in contemporary art, 3. the on going try to innovate formats of collective cultural action und 4. to have a look on the interchange with activists of other countries, especially in Europe.
Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio in Athens // the place
This part of Athens is rough, dusty and sun-dappled like the rest of this city. But in between the cuts of the wide and fast driven roads connecting the centre with the suburbs there are more silent areas fusing an architectural mix of traditional decorated city houses from the nineteenth century, functional buildings from the final decades of the last century, contemporary apartment blocs with traditional quiet squares and green backyards. Although the population is a vibrant mix of long-time residents, immigrants from various countries and just the absence of residents – a lot of properties are broached and abandoned – it is possible to detect three main groups of residents, which shape the face of the district. First: the operators of the red light district, second: the new real estate investors strong connected with a fast expanding art- fashion- and club scene and third: the junkies hosting all the streets and place with their passive existence. To make it short: this district offers a unique mood of animating consternation.
»Idiopolis« // the aims of the exhibition at ReMap4 in summer 2013
The exhibition was about the interchange / the relationship of privacy and public and the possibilities to set that relation in an artistic work or action. Besides several classical heterotopias in an original Foucaultian Sense, which are defined by their own unique structures and rules (like jails, hospitals, graveyards, shopping malls and even galleries) there are two main-types of space in our society: the private space and the public space. On one hand they differ in law and use: the private room is rented or bought by a private person to have an own space for the individual favours of behaviour and rules. The public space is organized by the estate and open for mostly every citizen. So first and at all the difference is set in a political-spatial definition. On the other hand there are a lot of interchanges between the two categories – especially since »virtual places« (e.g. facebook) challenge our definitions of spatial like »space« or »frontier« The exhibition concentrated on these interchanges, which connect the basic dualism of “private” and “public” in many possible ways. How can we draw a line between – or maybe we can‘t? – these two spaces?
Focussing more on cultural field, we will investigate these opponents not only in an architectural meaning, but expand the access also on artistic production. Is not every artistic action a transfer from a private planed and prepared idea to a public statement in the moment it comes to an exhibition? Following that, artistic work is a public action, a capturing of public responsibility in general. “I have an idea, a “strange object” and I want the society to know and perceive it”. If you look around you will find a lot of professions, which are claiming a social responsibility and whose works may even have a greater impact on society, for example: politicians, officials, businessmen, scientist etc.. Already knowing that artistic action is a transfer from privacy to public in general, so to say a logical base of any artistic work, this exhibition makes one step further and brings together works which are setting the focus exactly on the shifting borderlines between private space and behaviour to public spaces and action. While these artists introduce political statements in form of work of arts into cultural discussion, they also reflect consciously and actively on their own situation as somebody “who” goes public and depends in his work on public reaction.
A good image for this theoretical topic is the window, because it marks exactly the surface, the mirror, the visual transfer-zone in between private and public, in between “inside” and “outside”, in between subject and environment, in between soul and world in space and materiality. That’s why the motive and the idea of a window could be a kind of repeating element of this exhibition.
The third connection between the works and a main characteristic of the show is the obvious selection of Greek artists meeting international artists. The situation in Greece plays an important role for all countries, because it shows the limits of economic growth and political control in the western system. While the citizens of Greece (the birth place of the western idea of democracy, the localisation of our common Utopia) are suffering the most on the financial crisis, the economy of other countries like Germany profits the most of the actual tendencies. While the Greeks are leaving their private holdings and go into public to take responsibility for their rights, a growing class of rich citizens worldwide are seeking private, familiar comfort as the ultimate goal of their existence and leaving public responsibility behind themselves.
Most of our political terms and ideas we use today began their history in the Greek antiquity. As well as the distinction between »public« and »private«. At the very beginning of the distinction between these two spheres, we find a term, which sounds quite strange today: Idiot, or Greek ἰδιώτης, idiōtēs, means a private citizen. But of course, in being that, he benefits from a public sphere, that allows him to be private. Today we only know a very negative connotation of the word may basing on the denotation of somebody who is just caring of himself. Maybe it‘s time to think again about the idiot – and the relevance if this term for actual politics. Behind that question stands, we think, the question Roland Barthes asked when he was think about the concept »idiorrhythmic« – How to Live together?
Nisaar Ulama and Stephan Köhler
The artists of »Idiopolis«
Akim | Javier Hinojosa | Leon Kahane | Marc Klee | Marc Bijl | Oliver Ressler | Stelios Karamanolis | Stella Geppert | Tula Plumi | Vassiliea Stylianidou | Vincent Grunwald | Willem Besselink
The share of Vassiliea Stylianidou
„Additional to the statement on my picture, I would like to point out, that is was very important for me to do my work in public space. I did not want to use any of the buildings, that Tsakonas offered to us. My intention was to establish an own framework besides the official framework of ReMap4. In that way I understood my participation as a statement in the controversy about the gentrification of Kerameikos and about the condition of crisis affecting Greece and Europe in general. The word “sovereignty” that was cleaned and hung up – the washing of sovereignty has to be read with a question mark.”
The share of Stella Geppert
From: Social spaces in the focus of sculptural field research / Jule Reuter / in "Achso", Stella Geppert, 2006
“An ongoing theme in Stella Geppert's sculptural work is the relationship of people to their spatial environment. This relationship is difficult to comprehend, being dynamic and changeable, and defined by various factors and processes, some of which are not visible. The artist attempts to approach this complexity by raising questions that constantly recur and enlarge upon themselves. The question of corporeality, says Geppert, is the foundation and stimulation for all formal development in her work.
Like a field researcher she investigates concrete starting situations – the sculptural results are products of the respective site-specific analysis. In this she adheres to the concept-art-based practice of working "in situ", which declares the context to be part of the work.”
The share of Vincent Grunwald and Leon Kahane
Blind Facades of the Art Net
-Ties between art event and city upgrade-
What happens when you are being copied and pasted into another place? You might feel sick because you're compressed, because you lost information on the way.
Who did copy and paste you? We have to guess that it was the holder of the image rights into which you have been pasted. And as long as the indication of source is made you might be copied.
There is actually a technical reason that leads to a dysfunction and a feeling of being lost.
When something is being copy-pasted, it's solely the information of the inside and not the references to the outside that has been copied. This creates a redundant code that is not just difficult to service and more prone to bugs. It is also very difficult to augment the functionality of the code. This is why computer experts happen to say Copy and Waste instead of Copy and Paste.
When we participated in ReMap 04 we had that odd feeling ourselves and started to diagnose it. We realized that we where providing the imagery of the upgrading process of Kerameikos-Metaxourgio (KM). The artworks serve as catalysers, transforming the abandoned houses into places of vivid cultural events and soon into exclusive residential buildings1. The artworks are supposed to be the agents of the districts future.
The gif´s of the series “Real Art Estate” consist of copy-pasted images, news material, and self-representations of the involved companies, that have been resampled to create a proximity between different elements that are supposed to be perceived separately. These different elements are relevant factors for a city development that originates in the interest of private companies instead of a public interest.
Vincent Grunwald & Leon Kahane
1 “Remap(ping) Athens: The Crisis before the Crisis and the Crisis within the Crisis” by Dimitris Dalakoglou is an relevant article that serves the understanding of investors friendly city development in Athens with a Focus on Remap Athens and it´s inherent policies. The article can be found there:
Conclusion by Stephan Köhler
I took part at ReMap4, I was curating »Idiopolis«, I stayed in Athens around 2 weeks with a group of artists and friends. While drifting through the district, getting to know the people, understanding the relations in the quarter, my experience was divided into two parts. The first part was the simple being there, being in that situation, feeling good, feeling free in a way, going on with the things that had to be done. Did they had to be done? The second part was the growing complexity of the roles and responsibilities different groups of people were taking throughout this event.
Just to give a first impression a first overview about the complexity, dozens of questions rose up and were partly discussed. If Remap was bad for the people of the district, why a lot of people told me, that they really like the event? They were curious about the new faces heading through the streets, they enjoyed the venues, they appreciated that things moved and they liked to sell their commodities. What is better a quarter as a mix of different income classes or just a poor quarter hosting the red light district? Have all gentrifications finally to end in luxury real estate ghettos? If the Greek State is bankrupt and to powerless to organize a proper development of Athens, should everybody wait until the situation has changed, even if parts of the city sink into poverty? Is there really a proofed causality between making a show in an old abandoned house and sell that house or houses in the neighbourhood? Or are there much more important reasons why houses get sold? And finally what has more impact on the state of emergency in Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio – making a show, which announces via artistic transformations some actual neoliberal developments, including some aspects of the quarter or just stay at home? Beneath all these questions lies the core: the function of art in society.
How close can anybody come to truth? The only chance to make a decision – I realized when I came back to Berlin and speak to a friend – is to look at the situation from a distant and idealistic point of view. You can just ask yourself, how would a city, a Polis, develop a district in the best and most righteous way? The answer is simple, only on the base of common decisions made by all inhabitants. When somebody with a lot of money is taking over policy from city council and tries to form the district he prefers, artists should not support these pretensions. The structure of Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio proves a certain resistances against dynamic gentrification, no matter the consequences of missing money of missing rich inhabitants. But since years the situation is on peak, sensitivities hit each other there every day. That may be the reason why this quarter is fascinating, at least for the cultural scene from abroad.
It may be easy to judge from the distance. But on the other hand we were there and we were involved and we will be holding the connection to our Greek friends in the future. In retrospective it is obvious: It was a failure to make that exhibition under these circumstances. But sometimes making mistakes is the better way to understand what´s going on.
And most important: it is possible to define the function of art in society by yourself.