Documenta14 is already in the past but as Adam Szymczyk argued its social awareness concept – language & otherness – will be around for some time to engage people with social and political issues. Proof is one of its project, the Victoria Square in Athens, which started under the umbrella of Documenta14 and is carrying on its activities until now. The project was created by the artist Rick Lowe and its main concept is to create an infrastructure which will operate across of fields of culture, art and business as well as support of networks of refugees and immigrants.
Pic. 1 : Photo: D. M-J, 2017
Victoria square (pic.1) was a neighborhood of middle class Athenians until around 1970s. Thereafter, the well off Athenians moved out and the area has slowly transformed to a cross road of immigrants and refugees. In 2015 it made a news overwhelmed by refugees and their traffickers and tents all over the area of the square for the purpose of accommodating all those people. At the moment, all those tents have been removed and the square has been transformed into a United Nations kind of place. If someone passes by the square can hear all sorts of languages (Arabic, Albanian, French, Greek, Polish, Swahili…) by people who try to communicate with each other with the ultimate purpose to find a way for better life.
Pic.2: Photo: D M-J, 2017
Victoria Square Project has its base very close to the Square at 13 Elpidos str. (pic. 2) and it has a lot of participants that they help to understand better the cultural, historical and political dynamics of this area.
When I visited the area and the premise one month ago, I saw quite few people including children around other than Greeks and it seemed to me that they felt at easy in this place. I suppose, as all the foreigners in a new land, they found a place that they can pop in and be welcomed. Also, I noticed that some activities were taking place such as knitting, reading… which can occupy people’s mind pleasantly and give a short term purpose.
One of the participants of the VS project is Barbara Mulas, creator and co-curator of Nest Conversations: an occasional and nomadic series of free social events that challenges through the language/conversations and art projects the meaning of the term NEST : comfort vs. uncomfort in people’s life. Through her experience of leaving and working in the Victoria Square Project created the Unest art project which was hosted in a small apartment in Athens. The main concept was to illuminate the individual comfort/discomfort in a such an intense environment as the Victoria Square area.
Pic.3 : 1,2,3* photo: D. M-J, 2017
The conversations started in the Kitchen (pic.2) by writing on the Kitchen wall questions posed by the audience. In one of the corners of the living room there was a board game – Backgammon or Tavli for the Greeks – a board game as a point of comfort for the immigrants and a point of connecting people of different origins (Backgammon has its origin in Persia). On one of the walls of the living room there were photos of foreigners in Athens from refugees, immigrants to well off tourists (comfort v.s comfort). The event attracted 70 people from the area of Athens, a good number to start a conversation and stimulate minds around the issues of the individual’s comfort vs. discomfort on a given social setting.
This small interlude was an example of how the Victoria Square Project brings different people together and enhances communication. The power of language and communication by extension is a pivotal remedy for a society’s malfunctions.
p.s.1.: The Nest Conversations project is co-curated by Barbara Mulas and Christina Aquirre and its online nest is at : http://nest-conversations.tumblr.com/
p.s.3* : Pic 1: Nest conversations unnest#1- questioning room, concept by Mulas and Aquirre, executing by Aquirre ; Pic. 2 : ELA this place is important to me by Anne Marie Slater; Pic. 2 : Untitled by Frankie Mills.