Sunday 30 December 2012


Festive, Christmassy Antonello

with lots of reflections this time,

I especially like the clock

lots of red for Christmas.

Inspired, as usual.

Lots of pomegranates as this is the fruit for the New Year in Greece, a symbol of regeneration, fertility, prosperity and the inseparable duality of life and death.

The duality of the pomegranate is best illustrated by the myth of Persephone who was daughter of Demetra (goddess of fertility, the four seasons and the harvest) but also daughter of Demetra's younger self.  Hades, god of the underworld abducted Persephone and would not let her return to earth. Demetra's grief meant that the earth became barren. When Hermes was sent to retrieve Persephone she had already eaten six pomegranate seeds which meant that she was committed to returning to the underworld for six months of the year. The seasons of spring, summer and autumn represent the time when Persephone is reunited with Demetra, while winter represents the time when Demetra is grieving because she is not with her beloved daughter.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Here we go again...

I thought I had become immune to the incompetence, lack of accountability and most of all, corruption of the Greek state. I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. I thought I knew all about the depth of depravity that the political elite could sink to. This week's events have surprised all of us however.

The recent developments on the issue of the so-called Lagarde list have brought to the fore the whole question of what a state is for, and in particular, the Greek politicians' belief that 'I have been elected and I can consequenly do anything I want, without being accountable to anyone or anything'.

The list was passed to the Greek Finance Ministry by Ms Lagarde in 2010, when Mr Papakonstantinou was Finance Minister. The PASOK government took no action and later claimed to have lost the list.  In October  of this year when journalist Kostas Vaxevanis published the list he was arrrested and prosecuted. Public anger over this issue has forced the authorities to start examining the details of 2,000 companies and individuals who had accounts in Switzerland and who may not have paid tax on their income.

The names of two of Mr Papakonstantinou's cousins and their husbands were on the original list (a copy of which was supplied by France last week), but not on the list that the officials had been working with.

Mr Papakonstantinou denies any wrongdoing despite the fact that the only names that were deleted from the list were those of his cousins and despite the fact that the list was handed to him by the French. He also asserts that it must have been Mr Venizelos, the head of PASOK who took the names off the list.

And what I ask myself again, for the thousanth time, is this: 'do they think we are that stupid? Do they really think that we will go on accepting their lies, their corruption, their total disregard for those who have elected them?'

As I have mentioned before in this blog, austerity is hitting hard at all levels of Greek society. Furthermore, tax evasion is rife and the state does nothing about it. Mr Papakonstantinou was not the only finance minister to be given the Lagarde list: his colleagues in France, Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy also received the list, acted on it swiftly and managed to collect taxes amounting to 10 billion euros in record time. Greece was the only country to hide the list in a drawer and not to act on it. In the meantime, the people of Greece are suffering horrendous hardship and are told that they have to repay the debt to the IMF and the EU, while their politicians continue to steal, pilfer and destroy.

'Greece's second major politician acted like the smallest of crooks, selling out his country for his own little self-interest', comments Socrates Tsichlias in Kathimerini today, a sentiment that is hard to argue with.

From one of the numerous demonstrations of the Greek people against austerity in the last few months. The placard reads: 'Dear God, hunger scares me'.

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Friday 28 December 2012

A Bigger Splash - the second part

In the second part of  the exhibition A Bigger Splash at Tate Modern, each room is devoted to a single contemporary artist or group, the work having been selected as a way of considering the impact of experiments in performance, theatricality and masquerade on expanded approaches to painting from the late 70s to the present day.

Room 6, Edward Krasinski

The Polish artist Edward Krasinski applied a line of blue tape at a fixed height to the walls of his studio and living quarters. This single continuous line linked the paintings on the wall to the elements of his everyday life, but also demarcated the area from the outside world. He described it as 'blue scotch adhesive tape. I stick it horizontally 130 cm above ground, everywhere and on everything. I wrap it around everything, reach everything. It is art or it isn't. But the blue scotch adhesive tape is certainly there: 10cm wide and of unknown length...'
Untitled, 2001
An installation consisting of 12 suspended mirrors, with a single strip of tape across them. The rows of reflective surfaces generate a sensation in which space seems to recede and advance.
The viewer is drawn into this play of reflected images, highlighting the dependency between spectator, object and gallery environment.
Room 7, Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Chaimowicz's work dissolves the boundaries between fine and applied art, and between installation and performance. In 'Jean Cocteau...'  he has devised an imaginary construction of the French artist Jean Cocteau's bedroom.
Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Jean Cocteau... 2003-12
There is no attempt at historical accuracy: instead, Chimowicz describes the work as a 'furnished interior that obliquely references his poetics'.  It includes artists that Cocteau might conceivably have admired, such as Duncan Grant and Edouard Vuillard, as well as works by more modern figures such as Andy Warhol and Wolfgang Tillmans that were made long after Cocteau's death in 1963.
Room 8, Joan Jonas
A pioneer of performance and video art in the late 1960s Joan Jonas is one of the most significant feminist artists of her generation. Her work has always moved back and forth between traditional and new media.
Joan Jonas, The Juniper Tree, 1976-1994
With The Juniper Tree, Jonas began to incorporate fairytales and folklore into her work, turning away from the camera toward a more painterly, narrative and text-based practice.
The Juniper Tree is based on one of the stories by the Brothers Grimm, in which a boy 'as red as blood and white as snow' is murdered by his wicked stepmother, then cooked and fed to his father. He is reincarnated as a songbird and takes his revenge.
The installation incorporates props, masks and a series of acrylic paintings on cloth that were made during performances. The masks and kimono suggest the influence of different modes of theatrical presentation, movement and dance on Jonas's practice, including Japanese theatre and Chinese opera. The juniper tree itself, beneath which the boy's bones are buried, is represented by a ladder, described by the artist as 'a shamanic representation of a magic tree, ladders to the sky'.
Room 9, Karen Kilimnik
The combination of the real and the imagined is central to the work of Karen Kilimnik.
Karen Kilimnik, Swan Lake, 1992 
In Swan Lake Kilmnik employs dry ice, fake snow, spotlights and music to summon the emotionally charged blend of artifice and melodrama associated with Russian ballet at the end of the 19th century. However, the encloseed setting does not suggest an actual theatrical set so much as evoking an obsessive, dream-like reverie, a psychological space infused with nostalgia and adolescent yearning.
Room 13, Lucky McKenzie
Lucy McKenzie's paintings draw upon trompe d'oiel techniques rooted in 19th century European artisan tradition.
Lucy McKenzie, Kensington 2246, 2010
These paintings  relate to Muriel Spark's 1963 novella The Girls of Slender Means which documents the lives of the respectable yet impecunious young women living in the May of Teck Club situated in post-war Kensington. The club occupies a traditional town house, now divided into dormitories and small private rooms to house the single women. The paintings at once create a space that the viewer might inhabit and represent a traditional form of painting that invokes illusional representation.

Wednesday 26 December 2012



One of the many faces of austerity... This is what our local shop looks like these days. Yannis says that all the money that comes in has to be spent on paying the huge increase in electricity bills and he cannot afford to buy any new stock.

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Monday 24 December 2012

I care and I share

Thousands of Athenians flocked to Syntagma Square yesterday, 23 December, to donate clothes, food and toys for families affected by the economic crisis.  Almost 3,000,000 Greeks, in a population of less than 11,000,000 live below the poverty line due to the recent austerity measures.
People of all ages patiently queued in the cold to participate in the 'I care, I share' initiative which was organised by the Athens Municipality and the Mega Television Channel. The event superceded all expectations: people started coming to Syntagma Square at 9:00 in the morning and they were still coming at 9:00 at night.
The nine lorries that were originally organised for the event were far from enough even though they kept being loaded, driven to the warehouses and then brought back. Soon, the warehouses were full and more space had to be found.
There were pensioners there who have had their pensions cut by almost half who went to the supermarket to buy groceries to donate. Children gave up their toys so that children who would otherwise have had to do without, could have a Christmas present.
The mayor of Athens said: 'this event is unprecedented. Something like this could only have happened during the German occupation in the 1940s when Greece was starving'.
At around 10:00 at night, the people who were still in Syntagma formed a human chain to help load the lorries.

Photographs by Michalis.

Sunday 23 December 2012

A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash - Painting after Performance, Tate Modern.
This exhibition looks at the dynamic relationship between painting and performance since the 1950s and at how experiments in performance have expanded the possibilities for contemporary painting. Attempting to look at the as yet unexplored relationship between so-called traditional and new media, the exhibition looks towards performative environments in which painting becomes a form of stage-setting that is continuous with the painted body of the artist or performer, de-stabilising the conventional set-up of making or viewing.
In this first half  of the exhibition artists look at ways in which the act of applying paint to canvas can itself be a form of performance, as well as the reinvention of painting as a collaborative or ritualistic action.  In the immediate post war period conventions of painting were broken down and pictoriality and composition were replaced with slashed, dripped upon, shot-at or cut-up canvases: new 'arenas for action'. In the 1970s artists used the body as a surface for painting, while some working largely from feminist or queer perspectives re-thought painting in new media as costume, make-up or drag so that painting became part of expanded art practices.
Room 1
Two major post-war paintings where each artist proposes a different approach to painting. For Pollock, the canvas is itself a field of action, a record of the artist's movements in actual space and time. In Hockney's case, the painting becomes an artificial backdrop that opens up a theatrical space, implying the viewer's entrance into its fictional world.


A Bigger Splash, David Hockney, 1967

Though the burst of water in the pool resembles a spontaneous splatter of paint, the intricate layers of white acrylic took Hockney two weeks to construct. This painting emphasises a stylised theatricality that blurs fact and fiction. The spray of water is not the spontaneous splatter that it at first appears to be, but an intricately constructed mess of hatched, dribbled acrylic so that the splash is not a splash but a painstaking and poetic deceit and as such it is an incorporation into representational painting of a deliberate stylistic rebuff to American abstract expressionism's dominance at the time. During that time Hockney got involved in an elaborate defense of figurative over abstract art in battle with the adherents of Clement Greenberg. Careful to conceal the passage of its creation, the illusion of splashed water and of splashed paint implies performativity, but unlike the gestural brush mark or drip, it belies the activity of the hand of its maker.

Jackson Pollock: Summertime 9A, 1948 (oil paint, enamel paint and commercial paint on canvas)

Pollock developed a style drawing attention to the painting as an object, one that registered the artist's process and was not concerned with illusionist space. Summertime 9A is displayed on the floor in this exhibition just as it was layed out on the floor in Pollock's studio whilst it was being made. His technique of dripping and pouring paint as he stepped around the canvas led the critic Harold Rosenberg to argue that Pollock had recast painting as an 'arena in which to act. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event'.

The intricate layers of line and colour that build up can be seen as literal tracks of his dance-like movements across a canvas within a traceable period of time. Paul Shimmel noted that Pollock 'transformed the artist's role from that of bystander outside of the canvas to that of an actor whose very actions were its subject'.

Pollock stated: 'A method of painting is a natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement'.

Looking at the film that accompanied the painting, Pollock appears to be internally driven to move back and forth with a certain rythm, to make particular decisions about the colours of the paint, about when to start and when to stop. This form of abstraction could consequently be tied to the romantic notion that a pure, unmediated expression of inner life is somehow possible - the act of creating is itself the principle factor, over and above symbolic or realistic representation.

Looking closer.
Room 2 - action painting
Action painting with its dramatic gestural marks and attack on the traditional limits of the canvas, can be seen as part of a post-war attempt by artists to destroy existing cultural templates and begin again from scratch. In the wake of Pollock's meteoric rise to international fame, artists in the 50s and early 60s recognised the new role played by photographs of the artist at work. Such images underlined the increasing importance of process, and provided valuable publicity in a media-savvy world.

Pinot Gallizio, Industrial Painting, 1958 (monoprinted acrylic and oil paint, typographic ink andsolvent on canvas)
Gallizio was an early member of the Situationist International, an avant-garde group that attempted to analyze and subvert the capitalist commodification of daily life. Galizio's industrial painting adapted mechanised manufacturing techniques to challenge established models for the production and distribution of art. The paint was applied onto long rolls of canvas by a team of assistants using a 'low-painting machine' so that the result was mass-produced but also unique. Gallizio would then cut off sections to be sold. The resulting paintings would be displayed for sale like dress fabric and demonstrated by live models.
Looking closer
Kazuo Shiraga, Chizensei Konseimao (Nature Planet), 1960 (oil paint on canvas)
Shiraga's technique emphasizes the process of painting rather than the finished product, so that the act of painting sometimes became a theatrical performance, enacted for TV cameras or live audiences. He presented an action which involved firing arrows at a white canvas. In the late 1950s Shiraga developed a technique of swinging from a rope and painting with his feet.
Shozo Shimamoto, Holes, Ana, 1953 (foil paper and oil paint on paper mounted on wood)
Shimamoto emphasized the art-making process often blurring the distinction between creative and destruction actions. The Holes series explored the action of piercing the surface of a painting in a ritualistic and ordered manner. He also made paintings by firing a canon at a canvas or hurling glass bottles filled with pigment that would mark the canvas as they smashed against it. The dramatic act of creation was presented as being as significant as the finished painting.
Looking closer.

Nikki de Saint Phalle, Shooting Picture, Tirage, 1961 (plaster, paint, string, polythene and wire on wood)
De Saint Phalle filled polythene bags with paint and enclosed them within layers of plaster against a blockboard backing. The artist would then shoot at these constructions, releasing the paint. The process of making became as important as the finished work, and was regularly photographed and filmed with Saint Phalle wearing a white jumpsuit.
Nikki de Saint Phalle at work.
Room 3, Viennese Actionism
This group of artists regarded their highly provocative bodily actions as a new, living form of painting and much of this work was staged solely for the camera, often intended for publication rather than for a live audience. Growing up with the memory of WWII, these Austrian artists were reacting partly against what they saw as the political oppression and social hypocricy of their country and saw their actions as a kind of catharsis.
Hermann Nitsch, Poured Painting, Schuttbild, 1963 (oil paint on canvas)
Gunter Brus, Untitled, 1960
Gunter Brus, Self-Painting, 1964 
Room 5, Transformer
The idea of painting as an agent of transformation is developed here around themes of identity. Much of the work is from the 1970s, a decade that challenged stereotypical ideas of beauty and gender. Drawing upon make-up and drag, artists explored the convergence between new media and how it might reinvent painting, via developments in feminist and queer politics. Such approaches re-cast painting as a transformative medium.
Helena Almeida, Inhabited Painting, 1975
Almeida created a series of performative photographs titled Inhabited Painting in Lisbon in 1975.  Within each black and white photograph Almeida is posted, paintbrush in hand, making her mark in thick acrylic blue paint. The brushstrokes complete the action that her photographic self made. By combining photography, painting and performance she explores the formal tension between the flatness of the painting and the illusory space of the photograph.
'I was my work. There was no distinction between the canvas, the dimension of the canvas, and me. There was no distinction between the inside or the outside. My inner self was my outer self and my outer self was my inner self'.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled A, 1975
Cindy Sherman has developed a vast range of personae through costume and make-up creating a cast of characters from her own face and body. Her personae range from feminine ideals to exaggerated archetypes and shift between naturalism, abstracted grotesquerie, clowning and glamour.  She is associated with the 'Pictures' generation, a group of artists using minimalist and conceptual practices to examine photographic or media imagery in the late 1970s in New York. Made at a time when photography as an art form was being reconnsidered, the images examine how women are represented in popular culture.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1983

Her work explores role play in studio portraits based on people seen on the street, and often involving make-up and costume to explore issues of gender, class, masquerade and fiction.
Zsuzsanna Ujj, With a Throne, 1986
Since the 1980s Ujj has worked with performance and poetry to critique cultural constructions of female sexuality. Emerging from a situation in Hungary where most art institutions were state controlled, and being self-taught, Ujj turned to her own body as the basis of her work, painting and photographing it in anonymous settings to appear abstracted and distorted.
In Untitled 1986, a series of black and white photographs taken over four days, Ujj, alone, in an anonymous space, adopts a number of disquieting poses: her naked body, crudely painted to resemble a skeleton, transforms the traditionally passive female nude into a site of physical conflict. As she gazes menacingly beyond the picture's frame, the viewer is directly inplicated as a voyeur of a scene that oscillates between vulnerability and violence. This image of primitive ritual overturns alluring images of women.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Exarheia Co-operative


As a result of austerity in Greece and the resulting humanitarian crisis, a lot of new initiatives are springing up all over the place: health centres where people can go and get free medical care; soup kitchens; shelters for the homeless; places where people can go and exchange goods; food co-operatives. We went to visit a food co-operative in Exarheia square, where producers come and sell their wares in low prices as the middle people have been eliminated.


We had been to the party the night before and had gone home in the early hours of the morning, so we arrived at the Exarheia co-op as traders were packing up so there was not much to see.

Most stalls were empty but there were still some doing good trade.

An excellent initiative - we need more like this.

Tuesday 18 December 2012


Christmas party organised by Arts and the City  at Hyterion theatre, which is where Terrence MacNally's iconoclastic 1998 play Corpus Christi was staged, which casts Jesus and the disciples as gay men in rural Texas. The followers of the fascist party  tried to stop the production by intimidating, threatening and beating people up and in the end the play was abandoned. You can read more about that here .

The party was a great success.

Lots of people came and stayed until the early hours of the morning.

The venue was excellent - intimate and cosy

and everyone had a great time

the atmosphere was fantastic

There was face painting

some speeches

and the band, Ganzi-Gun, were excellent.

A most enjoyable evening.