Monday 23 September 2013

Images of austerity

We went in search of art but found other things instead...

We are in Metaxourgheio intending to look at some of the exhibits of Remap4. Everything is very quiet and a lot of the places seem to be closed. We find a place that could be a likely venue. The door is open. Two young guys who are too stylish to be straight are coming down the narrow stairs so I think 'bingo'. We start climbing the stairs and I can see flashing lights, and anticipating a light installation, we reach the first floor. An empty room except for the flashing lights and some pictures on the walls - it's very dark so I cannot see what the pictures are. I take my camera out and start snapping. I then move towards the curtain that leads to the next room. I pull the curtain and see the Madam - don't know why she is a madam as I have not seen one before, but she is, I just know. No sex workers around, but I know what this  place is and my suspicions are confirmed when I ask the Madam if this is the place for Remap4 and she looks at me with incomprehension. 'Your search for art has led us to a brothel', says Ken as we go down the stairs.

This is the reality of the Metaxourheio district, where Remap4 is located.

Remap is an international contemporary art project, running from 8 September to the 31st. It is located in one of the most run down areas in the centre of Athens in an attempt at regeneration. I totally despair when I go there. We visited Remap3 two years ago, and I found the area so ravaged by austerity that I could not bring myself to do a post on it.

No art was appreciated this time, as I made a mistake about the opening hours, but here are some of the photographs of the area that I took.

Some are heart-breaking.

We started here, the Municipal Gallery which was moved to this location in 2010 as part of the attempt to regenerate the area. We looked at some of the works in their permanent collection, post will follow at some stage, but we are doing more than I can write about at the moment.

Avdi Square where the gallery is located.

The area is full of houses like this, derelict, abandoned

These posters were everywhere, connected to Remap4?

A row of abandoned houses, the leg sticking out from the first floor, related to Remap4, I presume.


The neon seen through the first floor window, part of Remap4 but we could not go in

Eloquent - since the advent of austerity drug abuse has rocketed:

Across Greece, the byproducts of six straight years of recession have been brutal and cruel. Depression, along with drug and alcohol abuse, has risen dramatically. Delinqency and crime have soared as Greece's social fabric has unravelled under the weight of austerity measures that have cut the income of ordinary Greeks by 40%. Prostitution - the easiest way of financing drug addiction - has similarly skyrocketed.

The drug of preference for thousands of homeless Greeks forced on to the streets by poverty and despair, shisha is described by both addicts and officials as a variant of crystal meth whose potential to send users into a state of mindless violence is underpinned by the substances with which the synthetic drug is frequently mixed: battery acid, engine oil and even shampoo.

In a climate of pervasive uncertainty - where suicides have also shot up and the spread of HIV infections has assumed epidemic proportions - drug addicts (a population believed to be around 25,000 strong), have become increasingly self-destructive. (The Guardian).

The whole area is like this

Empty streets

except for the odd passerby and people squatting on the ground, with nothing to do

or just hanging around - I don't need to spell out what these men are doing...

But Athens is a city of strong contrasts these days

An interesting building: the modern build at the back, while the front of the old house has been preserved, serving as the enclosure for the front garden.

Step 1: Wake up. They are scared of your power
Step 2: All your fears stem from Television

Finally, a Remap4 exhibit that we could access: 'Dialogue', a set of 5 murals that communicate with one another, depicting, fear, anger, jealousy, lust and hate.

I am tormented - this is literally all over Athens, voicing what large parts of the population are experiencing

A familiar picture in Athens these days - too familiar. People going through the rubbish to find anything that they can either personally use, or sell.

Seeing people going through our rubbish every day, we are now careful about what we put out - anything that could be of any possible use to someone we now put in separate carrier bags and leave next to the rubbish bins so that when they take it it's at least not soiled by the rubbish. Normally such carrier bags are gone within minutes.

Graffiti and street art everywhere

total desolation.

And now we have left Metaxourgheio, and have entered Gazi where regeneration was successfully accomplished before the economic crisis hit the city. This is one of my favourite buildings

modern, sculptural.

One more photograph.

This is Athens today. A city ravaged by austerity, suffering, tormented, hungry, its people sleeping in the streets - a city of contrasts where the rich are doing very well sitting alongside a mass of people who are on their knees. And, the poorer large sections of the population become, the richer the few... A city of contrasts.

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