European Capital of Culture. Developing / showcasing the tangible and intangible economy of a city through the intervention of art, culture, and research
“As lovely as here,
it could never be in Paradise”
2023 ΕΛΕVΣΙΣ: arrival of a notable someone / person, thing, or event Synonyms: advent, arrival, appearance, emergence, materialisation, Epiphany, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, coming, looming, nearing, advance, embodiment
A cultural intervention in the concept
of an expanded notion of Art
Performance of the dramaturgy of a city with in
broader public space that constitutes
the theatre of its own self
The three Axes
People – Society / Labour / Environment
THE RAW MUSEUM
* Mythology, archaeology, history
* Population movement (internal emigration)
* The environment and industrial development
* Environmental damage * De-industrialisation, unemployment
* Movements (trade unionist / labour)
* Aeschylus – Kazantzidis
* The status of women within the history, mythology, and society of this city
Much like every city chosen to be a new Capital of Culture, Elefsina seems to constitute a field of research, a Model for studying contemporary European issues concerning society, people and relationships, Labour, the Environment, and sustainable Development, as these all appear to connect, collide, or cross within a modern-day city. The city fabric comprises exceptional traces of antiquity, contemporary tales of population movement, industrial development, and trade unionist / labour movements, but also of de-industrialisation and unemployment. Through this same fabric, such sensitive issues as severe impacts on the environment are interwoven, while the city’s ambivalent relationship with the sea is also worthy of attention, investigation, and actuation. The importance of Elefsina as the birthplace of Aeschylus, the special status of women through time across the city’s long lifespan, its distinct place within laïkó (Greek folk) songs that speak of emigrant displacement, unrequited love, and working class toil – thanks to the accomplishments of the legendary popular singer Stelios Kazantzidis, that incomparable exponent of the form – all imbue this city with hues and facets that are unique.
Much like every city chosen to be a new Capital of Culture, Elefsina seems to constitute a field of research, a Model for studying contemporary European issues concerning society, people and relationships, Labour, the Environment, and sustainable Development, as these all appear to connect, collide, or cross within a modern-day city.
Α. THE CITY AS AN EXHIBIT
The city as an exhibit of its present and history, its conflicts and images.
The concept of cordoning
An artistic / dramaturgical showcase of that historical event known as a city, specifically the city of Elefsina. Spotlighting major human interventions, the “wounds” inflicted on the body of the city, the architectural constructs / perpetrators of this act – Factories, Quarries and so on. The actions, of all kinds, constitute a large-scale, selective “cordoning” of the hidden locale.
Β. SOCIAL SCULPTURE
One might construe the persistent efforts made by Pericles to convince the Athenians to spend their money building the Parthenon as Social Sculpture. Actions to disclose and develop the dynamism of this place, its people, and their abilities. Capacity building for local young people through a series of experiential, informative, soft skill, and other activities that strive against the diminishment of their environment. Actions in support of a tangible and intangible Legacy, that ensure the cultural continuity and singularity of Elefsina as an historic landmark in ancient and modern Greek history. One might also consider the polite pressure perhaps applied, directly or indirectly, by cultural action for the development of sustainable Legacy institutions, and for immediate improvements in the quality of life and everyday lives of local citizens, as Social Sculpture.
1. Adapted reuse of select abandoned industrial buildings
Their conversion into spaces for the production of culture today – which is to say, ongoing artistic and performative interventions into the life of the city and, by extension, into that of the nearby Greek capital.
2. Showcasing, remodelling, and transforming
Showcasing, remodelling, and transforming an environmentally degraded industrial site in the area – a site now known as “Dogteeth” – to create a landscape theatre (one of a kind in Attica) through the presentation of largescale music and performing arts spectacles.
3. Regeneration programmes
Programmes regenerating the urban fabric through aesthetic, soft interventions made by artworks and implemented in partnership with all relevant Hellenic Ministries and the Municipality of Elefsina.
4. Art residencies
Giving artists the chance to get to know the city, working in situ to produce public artworks that showcase / reveal its special and distinct identity.
5. Improving connections between Elefsina and the Athens metropolitan area
a) Pushing for a maritime transport link connecting Elefsina with Greece’s most major port (Piraeus) for reasons both practical and tourism-related, thus activating – and recalling attention to – the coastal nature of Elefsina, and handing this connection with the sea back to both locals and visitors.
b) Pushing for the re-activation of existing rail transport links – the historic train that once led to Elefsina.
6. The creation of a model scuba diving centre active in the seas of Elefsina
a) A site for diving tourism that is also an ongoing point of reference regarding the state of the maritime environment, and an experiential form of leverage pressing for the continued clean-up of the seas. A place for the creation of a specialised underwater habitat / index that demonstrates the condition of the waters, all in partnership with a university department of marine biology.
b) The final resting place of the vessel Persephone, a unique specimen of the ship-building craft that is also an industrial archaeology monument – a special underwater tourist attraction to be found in the mythical waters of Elefsina.
7. The creation of a skatepark
A long-standing need repeatedly called for by young people in the city. And the creation of a youth Hub through an arts project led by Timecircus – legacy projects that will live on in the city. None of these many things can happen without the participation and co-operation of the Municipality and local residents.
C. ACTIONS – MODELS
Original experimental actions as models to be applied to a city
The actions in question – the result of collaborations between the arts and sciences – are in a position to advance a model that can also be applied to any other city with similar characteristics or objectives.
1. Narrative Archaeology
Ways of showcasing interactive aspects of archaeological sites through the contribution of the performing Arts, with a view to optimising visitor traffic and deepening experiential engagement. Offering archaeological site visitors an entirely different approach and experience. (Visitors’ ever crucial archaeological curiosity can be transformed into Experience by means of these specially formulated visits / journeys through a particular Site.)
2. Memory as a City / Invisible Map
A project at once artistic, dramatic, and historical. An on-going showcase of another / invisible map of a city, a Map documenting the critical experiences – be they personal or historical – of its inhabitants. The where exactly something happened, at some point. There, a small Public Sign is to be erected or placed, which – in combination with a digital app – will allow the public to be initiated into the secret or hidden history of each such place / point.
A city is a map charting the experiences of its people
On their walks, both local residents and visitors will get the chance to stumble across the city’s collective unconscious, the MEMORY of its experiences. Something that subtly heightens the historical curiosity and awareness of its people – be they part of the populace or just passing through – in a playful way.
All the actions / projects are thus a process of emergence / revelation .
They are called Mysteries and are numbered
The Greeks had specific places from where they descended into Hades. A state of inner readiness is, however, a Place in and of itself, where one can – from its various points – head down into the underworld. These are typically the points from where dreams emanate. (Walter Benjamin, Das Passagen-Werk [The Arcades Project])
In ELEFSINA, one may safely contend that Time is split into two zones / phases. Dark Phase (the seasons where Kore is not here). Light Phase (the seasons where Kore is among us). By Kore we mean Persephone, the mythical daughter of Demeter. The Light Phase in Elefsina lasts seven to eight months.
P.S. The European Capital of Culture is at once a flower bed , a garden of acts and ideas . Ideas that ought to be, that want to be made Action. Many will not come to pass, remaining ideas, possibilities, plans. Yet these too comprise part of the city’s intangible Capital of Culture Legacy. Perhaps their time has yet to come, perhaps they did not fall on sufficiently mature political or historical ground – the right moment – to bloom and be realised. Yet there they live on, lighting the way – as did so many other vital ideas, their kindred that made it – towards the Works.