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Space in common: Socially engaged art in the Athens of crisis

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During the last years ‐ within a constantly deepening social, political and economic crisis ‐ Athens’s public space appears challenging, presenting a character of ongoing re-evaluation and change. It is due to the impact of the crisis, for example, that the city’s public space is being approached once more by many citizens who, during the years before the recession, had chosen to transfer main activities and functions of public life to the more protected sphere of privateness. One notices the return to open spaces by locals not only for leisure but also for social interaction. Most emphatically, however, appears the fact of a rising number of population in need, such as homeless people, immigrants or refugees, who host aspects of their private life in the public sphere: most of the times, they are not only users, but rather habitants of public space, in a transitional situation of social suspension, lacking a sense of belonging. Under the light of the city’s different realities, and of an expected social co-existence, the article aims to present the practice of artists who become active in Athens’s public spaces of social ambivalence in Athens, by realizing socially engaged art projects. By focusing on case studies such as Nomadic Architecture Network’s projects, the Victoria Square Project by Rick Lowe and Maria Papadimitriou, Common Platforms, a Blind Date by Adonis Volanakis, along with Rafika Chawishe, or the UrbanDig_Omonia by the UrbanDig Project in Omonia square, among others, the article highlights the artists’ interest in understanding the historical and cultural dynamics of each area and in working with different participants of the community in an effort to find common ground and to create bonds among individuals of unalike backgrounds. The article shows how such artistic practices become a channel of creative expression and fruitful dialogue in environments of precariousness and intolerance. Showing the importance of cooperation and understanding, socially engaged art projects function positively as collaborative ‘heterotopias’ in turbulent times for Athens.
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Keywords: Athens; Greek crisis; art activism; community; everyday micro-utopias; heterotopias; public art; socially engaged art

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • The Journal of Greek Media & Culture is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal that aims to provide a platform for debate and exploration of a wide range of manifestations of media and culture in and about Greece. The journal adopts a broad and inclusive approach to media and culture with reference to film, photography, literature, the visual arts, music, theatre, performance, as well as all forms of electronic media and expressions of popular culture. While providing a forum for the close analysis of cultural formations specific to Greece, JGMC aims to engage with broader methodological and theoretical debates, and situate the Greek case in global, diasporic and transnational contexts.
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