Saturday, 19 August 2017

A trip to Athens

We like walking through the National Garden in Athens whenever possible.

We were in the middle of a heatwave last week, so walking in the shade was extremely welcome.

The dappled light was a blessing after the relentless beating of the sun

this old tree sits between the toilets

absolutely enormous trunk and roots

We passed the garden's botanical museum

past the café.

I have never sat here, but it always looks so cool and inviting

one more photograph of this cool and relaxing space.

Just outside the gates stood this euzonas. Historically they were light infantry and mountain units of the Greek army. Today they are members of the Presidential Guard, a ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the presidential mansion. The unit is known for its uniform which has evolved from the clothes worn by the klephtes who fought the Ottoman occupation of Greece.

He did not even blink as I took this photograph.

A few metres up the road we came upon this klouva, (translated as cage), a police van used for arresting dissidents. There's been one parked here ever since I can remember. The so-called left-wing Syriza government had these removed when they first came to power, but now, unfortunately, everything is back to normal.

There was absolutely no need for this on the day we were in Athens as there were no demonstrations, but it's always parked here, as a reminder and a warning ...

We walked past the Cycladic Museum

across the road another klouva,

and arrived at the Byzantine Museum which was our destination.

After the exhibition we were ready for some lunch and chose Philippou as its cool interior was a welcome break from the heat.

The heat and the fact that a lot of people are away, meant that it was very quiet

like a lot of traditional tavernas you can see the kitchen and all of the 'magirevta' translated as cooked dishes (as opposed to grilled meats and fish) are on display which makes choosing easy

It's one of our favourite places, good food and good atmosphere.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Greece is burning .... again

(photo by Manos Fragioudakis, from here )

Today is the fourth day that firefighters have been battling fires that have been raging northeast of Athens. The fire started in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some 45 km (30 miles) from the capital. It has spread to three more towns, damaging dozens of homes and burning thousands of hectares of pine forest. A state of emergency has been declared in the area and some towns have been evacuated.

(photo from here )

It is proving very difficult to put the fires out, as the high winds keep changing direction and on Tuesday Greece had to ask for help from its European partners.

The whole of Athens is covered in a cloud of smoke. Satellite pictures show that the smoke has reached Crete and has moved on to the Libyan sea.

The effects of the fire are felt here even though we are 30 miles away. For the last three days our terrace has been covered with a thin layer of ash, and everything smells of burning. If you are an asthma sufferer, like I am, it's terrible: my chest is incredibly tight, and last night, I had a three-hour long coughing fit that prevented me from sleeping, despite the fact that we had all the doors and windows shut. Today, I am trapped in the house, so I am writing this post, frequently interrupted by fits of coughing.

(photograph from here )

The toll on firefighters is horrendous. This photograph of an exhausted firefighter has gone viral in Greece, an illustration of  the courage, bravery and stamina of these professionals that keep Greece going in the summers.

(photograph by Petros Gianakouris from here )

Water-carrying planes and helicopters are an essential tool for fighting fires in the summer.

So, why do these fires happen? Some are wildfires, but a lot are a result of arson carried out by arsonists who are paid by big business and developers who want to build on the land that has been destroyed. But, surely, legislation could solve this problem? you may ask. Indeed! All that is required is legislation that prohibits building on land (fields, pastures, forests) that has been destroyed by fire. The corrupt and incompetent Greek State cannot even resolve this.


But this is not all. The fire in Attika is one of 90 forest fires that have broken out in Greece in the last four days. The Peloponnese, the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia are also burning. A state of emergency has been declared in Zakynthos where 14 active fire fronts exist at the moment. Arson seems a certainty as 9 different fires erupted in one place, with four of these breaking out very close to each other at midnight. Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis said: 'it's arson following an organised plan. There is no doubt about it'

The environmental cost is immeasurable, not least for all the wildlife that is destroyed. This photograph of a firefighter rescuing a small bird has also gone viral.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Documenta 14 at the Benaki Museum, Pireos

Documenta 14 at the Benaki museum, Pireos.

Most of the Documenta 14 works exhibited at the Benaki museum did not interest me. I found Roee Rosen's fictionalisation of the life of Eva Braun, which took up the whole space of one of the large galleries, boring and could not see the point of it. Sergio Zevallos' A War Machine was intriguing, but difficult to convey and the rest of the works did not do much for me at all.  Consequently, this is a very short post, just so that I have a record.

Hiwa K, One Room Apartment, 2017


Algirdas Seskus, Shaman, 2012 (fifty inkjet prints)

 looking closer

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Documenta 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art - 3

Documenta 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens - part 3

My last post on the Documenta 14 exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art.

Coming down the stairs from the top galleries we saw this monumental sculpture:

Cecilia Vicuna, Quipu Womb, (The Story of the Red Thread, Athens), 2017

In this sculpture Vicuna suspends thick masses of knotted red wool from a circular metal frame. Reminiscent of umbilical cords, blood or even matted hair, quipu was originally an Incan system for recording events with knotted strings. Here, the poet Vicuna symbolically suggests the joining of word, narrative history and flesh as we imagine the bloodshed of past regimes, including Chile's Pinochet, which resonates with today's landscape of war and brutality.

Via the umbilical cord of menstrual symbolism, this work furthermore connects Andean mother goddesses with the maritime mythologies of ancient Greece.

McDermott and McGough, The Greek Way, 2001

'The Greek Way' was a euphemism in the 20th century for homosexuality, at a time when western societies had repressive attitudes towards openly gay men and women.

This is an installation where ancient Greek homosexuality, the Hellenistic principles and the Golden Age of Greece, plus the Third Reich's Aryan propaganda are all interconnected. The paintings of McDermott and McGough from their series Hitler and the Homosexuals, present images of Hitler over-painted with the names of gay murder victims, plus their dates of birth/arrest/murder.

On another wall of the installation, Piotr Uklanski's paintings based on film stills from Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1936-38) are presented.

Openly gay men and women were among Hitler's first targets for persecution in the name of purifying German society, condemning them as 'socially aberrant'. Functioning as memento mori, each of McDermott and McGough's Hitler paintings deface an idealised propaganda image of the Fuehrer by over-painting the name of a gay murder victim along with the dates of their birth, arrest and murder. Uklanski's Greek Way paintings tease out the simmering homoerotic undercurrents of Riefenstahl's film that conflates Hellenistic imagery with her propagandistic 'celebration of beauty' in order to create a subversive counter narrative of the Third Reich's homophobia and genocide.

George Lappas, Gardener with Little Bear, 2013

Maria Lai, Threads of Spatial Sail, 2007 (thread, fabric, wood)

looking closer

Maria Lai, Thread of Geometry, 2009, (wood, fabric, thread)

Maria Lai, Geography, 1994, (fabric and thread)

Maria Lai, To Gramsci, 2008, (fabric, thread, felt-tip pen)

Maria Lai, To Tie Oneself to the Mountain, 1981

Maria Lai, Window on the Loom, 1972, (painted wood and string)

Thomas Love, Working, 2016

Spiro Kristo, The brigadier, 1976

A number of paintings glorifying the past socialist 'work ethic' from Tirana's National Gallery of Arts. It's the first time I've seen art from Albania

Sotir Capo, Electric Wire Maker, 1969

Zef Shoshi, The Turner, 1969

Hasan Nallbani, The Action Worker, 1966

Andrzej Wroblewski, Mother with a Killed Child, 1949

Andrezej Wroblewski, Execution Against a Wall, 1949.