Athens is an invisible city. It welcomes us hidden beneath ready-mades, noises, and excessive, grim/bleak and bright, narratives which crumbled upon her.
Athens is an emblematic city, a palimpsest where each new period highlights and is highlighted by the previous ones. Because her text keeps rewriting itself we need to practice upon its view and reading.
CITY IS NOT A POSTCARD
The “Reception” is a call to visit the city, to recall history ultimately, since the city consists of its previous moments. A fitting gesture when the present suffocates us. The past lightens calmly the present giving it breathing space.
Athens is a fascinating city. On one hand perhaps that’s all. On the other hand, perhaps not, the good stuff starts after that. Athens is a city filled with stories, stories which transcend and connect it with faraway lands and different people. It has something to offer to everyone. This is what we do in the Reception: put the spotlight on these stories.
Let us not fool ourselves, its history is not easy. Solacing us often with cruelty. History always speaks of something that has passed and is long lost. Only by embracing this loss will we acquire an honest relationship with the city and its History which is also our history.
The history of Athens is our gate to enter the history of modern Greece and above all the history of European civilisation.
Modern Athens begins during the 19th century and for this reason is its imprint, archive and testimony. It has been said that “the 19th century is our father”, a century of nationalism and industrial revolution, the apogee of European dominance, climax of Eurocentric perception in which Athens has, symbolically, an integral part.
Athens is overshadowed by its so-called golden era, the 5th century B.C. What would happen if we examined all other periods carefully? The Hellenistic/Roman, the so-called Byzantine and the Ottoman.
Athens forces us to look in which way they continue, even in discontinuities, our lives, times and eras. In a sense, neither continuity or discontinuity is possible.
When looking closely, the material of the city exhibits connections between its parts which are chain-linked with others. Finally, the shapeless bulk transforms to a long text, an archive of which even the empty pages confess a presence, an intention, an era. The gaps are fulfilled and looking closely at the city seems a luxury which never ends, a privilege which is never lost.
THE BATTLE OF ATHENS
We talk a lot about Athens but our subject is the entire world. The passions, contradictions and historical adventures of Athens render this place emblematic. And this creates a huge responsibility.
But it is not only this particularity which provokes this whole conversation, it is at the same time a global and modern trend. We see it everywhere, the interest about the city has intensified, it sometimes resembles a fashion trend which is tiresome.
The general impression is that, instead of falling out as usual with fashions and trends, it will intensify. It is necessary. Public space is the place where we all live together, a tangible part of our common life. Public space is the place where relationships are not built upon friendships, interests, acquaintances, but because we are present there. This apparent ability, so simple it seems unimportant, is the fairest condition in order for someone to talk and participate in the public sphere. Other conditions function as restrictions, so effective that they are hardly noticed.
The city is the place where politics return to the basics, once it has failed with its institutions and procedures it returns to its primal form setting the question in squares, streets, and café bars of how to go on. Everything is connected again within the city, the least with the enormous. Private as well as public regards in a visible way the color of the walls, the kinds of trees, the height of the buildings.
If we fight for Athens it is because we defend something which goes a long way and it surpasses us all. Something whose size and continuation we cannot measure. We enter a battle which was here before our time and will continue after we are gone. We fight for a city which values beauty with justice and truth. For a city humane, complete, thus philosophical.