Greece’s economic crisis fueling the creative world
ATHENS - Hürriyet Daily News
The image is from the exhibition TOUT VA BIEN (Everything is alright) held in Athens in 2012 at CAMP, Contemporary art meeting point.Despite the grim side of Greece’s economic crisis, the ongoing austerity measures, two massive bailout packages and the growing unrest throughout society, the country’s arts sector is displaying an effervescence of creativity and development.
Although the budget cuts have had a substantial impact on the arts – forcing many arts organizations to cut programs due to a lack of funds – many people working in the field say such chaos has energized them and given them common ground to work on.
“In the past 2.5 to three years, many new art groups, organizations and galleries have appeared – [it’s] a real creative boom by Greek standards. This has been recognized by the international art scene, as well,” said George Georgakopoulos, the director of the CAMP alternative art space in Athens.
“We are experiencing a peculiar and unique artistic blossoming in the arts. In the past, the majority of artists focused on locating a gallery to exhibit in once every two years rather than producing a serious body of work. Now artists, organizations and groups are extremely active; [it’s] as if [they have been] awakened from a deep sleep,” he said.
Reaching to community
The blossoming is not just limited to the work of alternative art spaces; there is a large sense of engagement and a desire to reach the community as well.
Such is the work of artist and curator Artemis Potamianou, who has been running a radio show, called Art Therapy, together with a psychologist.
“We thought that if art possesses healing powers as Joseph Beuys claimed, a ‘strong’ dose of art may prove to be especially useful and beneficial,” she said. Due to the lack of money in the art scene, many artists are now doing a lot of volunteer work.
According to Potamianou, one cannot currently live in Greece, listen to the news every day and claim that their work is unaffected. On the flip side, this leads artists to create works of art that are much less commodified but more socially engaged, more political and more geared toward activism, she said.
Another art professional, Dimitris Michalaros, the co-curator of Visual Art Festival Action Field Kodra in Thessaloniki, also said they were trying to turn the festival into a gigantic community project for the last two years and that many locals in the area volunteered at the space.
“These citizens seem to know very well the importance of art in our society and culture. Many of these people were just visitors in the previous years, but now they are participants,” he said.
Indeed, the growing number of alternative art spaces, shows created with no funding budgets and a spirit of collaboration seem to be the main elements of a united art community.
“Because of the current situation, new artist-run spaces started to make their appearance at the peak of the economic and political crisis,” said curator Giorgos Tserionis.
Tserionis also said such effects were drawing artists from all over Europe to locate their studios in Athens because of the low rent and the vivid contrasts in the lives of everyday citizens.
How to make a living
However, the issue of money remains a major barrier. Michalaros said that although there was a sense of experimentation within the works created, it was very difficult for artists to make a living.
“Artists are not able to live off of their creations because there is no market. They do other jobs to pay their bills and making art becomes secondary.”
Yet, others also think that showing off money, which was once fashionable, is no longer the case.
“Money is not fashionable anymore; is not as hot, sexy or flashy as it used to be a decade ago because it has been stigmatized by corruption,” said artist Georgia Kotretsos.
“Something is feeding my creative and intellectual needs. Sometimes I think the restraints remind me of my lost liberties and I set out each day to claim them back,” she said.
“This chaos energizes me, it belongs to everyone; it’s not exclusive and that’s what we were perhaps missing all this years – common ground.”