From Russia with love

There is a boom of the Russian art exhibitions in London lately and this phenomenon is poured out in the name of loan between the two countries, Russia and Britain. Russian artefacts are imported to Britain  and Greek artefacts  are exported to Russia! People in decision-making positions argue that art is a powerful tool of diplomacy and certainly this is what the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor argued when he lent one of the Greek sculpture of Parthenon – the headless statue of a Greek god Ilissos  to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in order to honour its opening. At least the Russians lend their own and veritable Russian artefacts, without treats and tricks and changing the meanings of what belongs to whom.

Anyway this is not the subject of this post but  the exhibition which is taking place at the Gallery Saatchi  in London with title “The legacy of WWII in Russian Art” and marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the world war II and it’s an attempt to allow viewers to get a perception of Soviet art as well as stimulate a dialogue between the Russian and British experience of war.

 

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An exhibition well put which gives a short perception what was happening in the art spectrum during the Soviet period. The prominent art style during that period is the socialistic realism part of realistic art which allegedly its purpose was furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism. Some others  believe that artistic life of that period was  not suppressed by the ideology and the proof is the great number of landscapes, portraits and genre paintings which pursued technical purposes and thus were free from any ideology.

The viewers of this particular exhibition can see that both cases can be true.

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The Yalta conference 1945.IMG_2243_2

Stalin approving a USSR model of the pavillion, Paris 1937.

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Art can be a tool of  diplomacy and smooth out in some ways the differences between Russia and Britain and generally the west. But Russians – as Andrei Nekrasov thinks as well as this was my  perception of the people in Kazakhstan- feel their national identity most strongly when they come under pressure from the outside (see Crimea, sanctions etc). “The new Russian ideology presents European values as part of a hypocritical propaganda the west uses to rationalise its pursuits of geopolitical and economic interests. Westerners should not compromise on their values. But they should also be aware that neither economic sanctions nor military help for Ukraine are the right antidote to Russia’s new ideology. Instead they are potential trigger that could turn a suspicious Russia into an outright enemy”  says Andrey Nekrasov, film and television director.

Meanwhile we shall see how Alexis Tsipras’ diplomatic skills will work with Putin on 9 April. He will be the first European leader to travel to Moscow since the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. Therefore he can play a double role as European leader  and supporter of the people who feel crushed-creating a bridge between Europeans and Russians – something like that will help to elevate his position  among the European leaders. So far, he has proved himself as a good communicator and now it’s an opportunity to prove himself as a proud member of the European Union!

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Happy Here and Now!

Today’s zeitgeist dictates that everything should be interpreted in economic terms in order to make sense in our times, even the term happiness! Walt Whitman, the American poet, tumblr_n80a60dyn91qdsu1vo1_1280 wrote “happiness, not in another place but in this place … not for another hour, but this hour”. This quotation is going hand in hand with  the economist Maynard Keynes’s belief that it needs  immediate actions whatever concerns the economics:

“In the long run we are all dead”.

This year, except the never-ending economic crisis other awful things happened in Europe and around the world – Ukrainian, Syria… and religious terrorism. But again, we’ve  noticed people react and  show an unprecedented courage and resilience when there is the right leadership to support them. The obscure and weak French president Hollande had shown amazing leadership skills by inviting all the leaders in Paris to march along with 3.7 millions of people in the name of free speech.  The movement of “Je suis Charlie” has more connotations other than in the name of free of speech that had  been analysed extensively on the media.  In this occasion, I fully agree and support what Woody Allen said :

“Life becomes so painful at times that there’s a need to slip a barrier of comedy between you and it”.

Returning to the issue of economic crisis which has swept away the last trace of happiness from the Greeks and the rest southern Europeans, there is a glimpse of good news.  There is a big movement “pro Greece’ in Europe and  in the circles of intellectuals and economists who have studied  history in depth and they are in position to compare  the past with the present. Gillian Tett(Columnist of the year 2014) referred to the conference she had attended last summer, where the economist Benjamin Friedman gave a  brief history on debt forgiveness without mentioning at all the word Greece, but obviously all the attendants knew very well what he meant. He said :

“Germany was one of the greatest beneficiaries throughout the last century: on multiple occasions (1924,1929,1932,1953). There is no economic ground for Germany to be the only European country in modern times to be granted official debt relief on a massive scale and certainly no moral ground either. In Europe, the mood is so punitive that is akin to the 19th century retributive philosophy that created debtors prisons. Default is deemed immoral.” (A debt to history? by Gillian Tett, FT weekend magazine 17/1/15)

She added that officials from Europe’s periphery nations were even more indignant.To them, Germany faced a moral duty to help places as Greece, given the aid that it had previously enjoyed as Friedman mentioned above.

Therefore, there is a bit of good news for this year since the crucial election in Greece looms and things and changes can happen.The support exists, what Greece needs is a good leadership to make the most of this support. Francois Hollande showed the way : When there is a good cause everybody follows. The Greeks and the new government after the elections on January 25th,  have to show to the world that they can tackle the corruption and the rest will fall into place.

When there is hope there is happiness! Happy New Year to all!

 

We cannot move on without young people

The phrase “think globally, act locally” has been used by different groups such as environmentalist and business executives to care or build something locally and move later to global growth.  But now the Millennials, the generation  born between  1982 and 2003 , around the world are giving the phrase an entirely new meaning as they pursue their efforts to change the world and most of the times putting their own life at risk. The latter is the proof of the sincerity of their actions. They are risking even their own life in order to achieve what they believe is good not only for themselves but also for the society where they belong. The examples are bold and global :

images-1Malala in Pakistan :  The  Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education. Malala was brave and her fight was more straightforward. She was a female in underdeveloped country and she was fighting for education against Taliban. People in the West were eager to support her and to encourage the rest by giving her the Nobel prize of peace.

cd6a04e2-7cb0-11e4-9a86-00144feabdc0Joshua Wong in Hong Kong : The most radical of Hong Kong protesters to secure democracy. He went on hunger strike to urge the government to hold talks on Beijing political reforms. He wrote.”The people of my generation want what everybody else in an advanced society seems to have : a say in our future. And on twitter : “Fanny Law : Please tell your friend, he can move to a place without the Communist party, but he cannot move to a place without young people”. His supporters say “his movement succeeded because the students now have the fire of democracy burning in their  heart which will not be quenched by the iron fist of Beijing”.

assets_LARGE_t_420_54161256Nikos Romanos  in Greece : the young boy who was only 15 years old  when his friend was murdered in cold blood by a policeman  and died in his arms  in the centre of Athens. He is labeled as an  anarchist and according to his own view and letters to the public he accepts this role.  At the moment, he is in the prison and on hunger strike demanding educational leave in order to continue his studies. Nikos Romanos has more difficult role and status. He is struggling with an unknown combatant. He cannot articulate enough his struggle  because of his youth and the tricky environment he is in. He lives in a democratic country in the West where the bankocracy,  which goes hand in hand with  kleptocracy and  corruption, is the real master. Nonetheless, he managed to move more than 10.000 people , who marched in the centre of Athens, two days ago, in order to support him and his demands.

Despite the sadness and anxiety I had and have for the life of the above kids, I cannot hide my admiration for their Courage. And I can say  for sure that our future will be much brighter than we think.

We live in the Age of Simulacra

“The simulacrum* is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true”   Ecclesiastes.

Have you noticed on your fb timeline, twitter, blogs, tumblr, pinterest … platforms,  how many times have you seen the same things, quotes, pictures, ideas and even moods to go around again and again by sharing, reblogging and copying? Sometimes by attempting to paraphrase the initial message  the meaning of the original has already been changed totally.  This game of sharing, copying, reblogging that we all play on social media reminds me the children’s game ‘Broken Telephone’ or ‘Chinese Whisper’.

On social media it’s not only the repetition of quotes, pictures or ideas but as well as  moods. It is quite surprising that there are days where a high percentage of my virtual friends share the same mood! Something about the therapists have a lot to say.   I’m totally convinced that we live in the age of simulacra and simulation.  As the philosopher Jean Baudrillard argues in his book with the same title “Simulacra and Simulation” : We live in a world of which there are simulations upon simulations, copies of copies of copies. This concept stems from the idea that when something is simulated, it is inevitable that the original will become extinct. As the word simulacra by itself explains the whole concept “simulacra are copies that depict things that either had no reality to begin with, or that no longer have an original”*.

Nevertheless, the most interesting argument is that  humans are thriving when they are imitating each other. Karen Joy Fowler writes, in her short listed Booker Prize book ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’ :  “Humans are much more imitative that the other apes. If chimpa  watch a demonstration on how to get food out of a puzzle box, they, in their turn, skip any unnecessary steps, go straight to the treat.  Humans overimitate, reproducing each step regardless of its necessity”.

The same idea/argument has been reinforced in the film “Giver”,  the Giver (Jeff Bridges) says to the Receiver “there is a plan of sameness in this society”.

Perhaps,  the Golden Age has  taken off for humans and they have  the time of their lives! At last, their behaviour is mirrored in every way possible and the simulacrum is  the truth!

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P.S. : Sharing is carrying and copying is flattery! Somehow my quote can be justified.

Money doesn’t buy happiness but it buys everything else!

“Money doesn’t mind if we say it’s evil, it goes from strength to strength. It’s a fiction, an addiction, and a tacit conspiracy” wrote Martin Amis in his book “Money” some years ago. And I was thinking how much right he was, taking into consideration our present times. Every bit of the daily media news has been wrapped around words which one comes across when reads economic books : debts, taxes(haratsi), bailout, budget…

The topic of all the conversations, even among the “intellectuals”, is about economics and politics, two interrelated subjects, leaving social issues far behind.

Psychologists and economists who have studied the relationship between money and happiness paint the exact picture about the relationship : Homeless people in Calcutta, for instance, score a mere 2.9 on a 7-point scale of happiness, while multimillionaires in the United States rank themselves a cheery 5.8!

So there is a real strong argument at the moment for those people, that are not on the scale of failing to meet basic needs, still can achieve maximum happiness!

So the dilemma now is how to encourage ourselves to look at the bright side and distance ourselves from what we could buy if we had money.

Of course you can tell me “yeah, yeah it is easy being didactic.Give us the money and you can look as much as you like at the bright side…”
But again, I have done my bit about the above request I have given you already two nice books to read and feel this much needed happiness at a very reasonable price! #Μoney_Βuys_Εverything_Εlse.

2books
Just click at
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/o-tzoni-ki-ego/id569607944?mt=11 or
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/penelope-online/id513903291?mt=11

Υ.Γ ¨Ξέρω έχω μείνει πίσω σχετικά με την υπόσχεση μου για τα επόμενα βιβλία μου και τις περιπέτειες της Πηνελόπης, αλλά έχω αναλάβει ένα μεγάλο έργο να διεκπεραίωσω σχετικά με τη δημιουργία “open access” βιβλιοθήκων στις αναπτυσσόμενες χώρες! Λίγο υπομονή και θα σας παραδώσω αριστουργήματα τα επόμενα χρόνια. Προς το παρόν διαβάστε και δωρήστε το κλασσικό πια και ορίτζιναλ novel “Τζόνι κι Εγώ” και την “Πηνελοπιτσα Οnline”. Και τα δύο έχουν για φόντο μια Ελληνίδα στην “Αγρια Δύση” της Αγγλίας 😉
Bear in mind, Christmas is coming !
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Summertime in Astana

The weather in Astana is “a tale of two different cities”. At the moment, it’s real summertime. The temperature is around 24-30 C. and the sun is bright as ever. So today, I didn’t want to miss my favourite activity, picnic, which I exercise everywhere when the weather permits.

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The locals are quite brave and take plunge into Ishim river! I’m not quite sure if I will ever try this!

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Small wild flowers everywhere. I don’t know for how long ?

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The grass mowers have a rest at the moment. 😉

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The Science fiction skyline.

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My “complicated” greek recipe for picnic : Cut the watermelon carefully into pieces and add randomly the queen of all the cheeses, feta. There you are, enjoy!

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On the way back, I noticed this nice Christmas tree! Last year, I was not able to find a real one but now I know where to go 😉