Category Archives: The Crisis on the Walls

Rejecting cannibalism

I saw this poster today. On the wall outside my neighborhood’s Unemployment Office. It was full of young people and as I was arriving there a dark, stony feeling was felt in my stomach. Approaching the entrance, this poster made me feel better. No matter how desperate some people can get, they won’t turn to each other. The poster says (in free translation from a Greek colloquial expression):

We are hungry! And we don’t plan to eat each other!

poster hunger

Signs of the times

Today is the last weekend before Christmas. One last little hope for the shop owners to make up for the losses of another year of depression. Shops are going to be open on Sunday too. The city centre must be clean to cater for the shoppers, the army of consumers who are actually more like starving animals looking for offers, discounts, credit, installments, anything.

The centre must be clean, the image of the city is what counts. We’re in such a bad situation that we can’t be bothered with what’s behind the curtain. At least we can look well. I was talking with a hotel owner at the neglected areas below Omonia square. About two years ago, despite the crisis that was already there, he had spent more than 2 million euros to turn an old building to a boutique hotel. Last year when I first interviewed him complaining about the area being neglected, about immigrants, crime, few tourists would dare to go the demo-stricken Athens and even fewer would choose his hotel for their stay. This year he sounded much happier, the immigrants were gone, the police is doing a good job patrolling the streets, none of his clients reported any thefts and, above all, tourists increased. I guess he didn’t care about the immigrants’ detention camps or the police abuse, as long as the centre is good for his business, as long as Greece’s image abroad is polished. “Tourists returned to Athens. It’s simple. We had a riot-free year as far as the Athens centre is concerned” he explained while some blocks away, in Exarchia, this very riot-free year has been certain people’s biggest disappointment. Not that they indeed hoped for a real socialist, communist or anarchist revolution but at least there should be some show of resistance, they shouldn’t look as defeated as they do now. Above all it’s the image.

So they city must be clean. The Mayor of Athens, who only a couple of days ago called one of the city’s most vibrant, creative, young and colourful areas [Exarchia] a hub of organised crime, sent out the municipal workers on their eternal crusade against graffiti. The wall of the Bank of Greece HQ should be clean by now. This is how it looked when I passed by this morning.

bank of greece

A municipal worker is cleaning a wall from a graffiti. A bitter orange tree next to the Bank of Greece HQ has flourished. (photo Kostas Kallergis)

The graffiti was saying “Solidarity to all the immigrants”.

It’s winter. The bitter orange trees that decorate the Athenian streets have showed us their fruits. A sweet orange colour on the outside but extremely bitter inside. The naive tourists often mistake them for tangerine and occasionally try to eat them. Nature is teaching us, not everything is as good as it looks. The bitter oranges, the centre of Athens, the Greek economy…

Athens, 21 December 2013. These are the signs of these times.

The Wake Up Call

The Wake Up Call logo

I’ve finally finished the production of a short-doc that occupied most of my free time the past 3-4 months. It’s a documentary about the political graffiti in crisis-stricken Athens. The project is the child of an idea I had last January. I was always bumping into amazing works of art in the streets of Athens but these were increasingly politicized, a natural result that was mirroring the social dissatisfaction.

euro car crash

By WD

However, when I would see the same works of art destroyed, painted over or, simply, damaged by time, I thought I should document them. Thus, I like to see this documentary rather like an instant photo of Athens today. A photo in which one can see the urban art, the discontent, the politics, the dissent and, more discreetly than the rest, the pessimism.

bansy euro girl

By Absent

The documentary focuses on four Greek political street artists. Paul, MaPet, Absent and Bleeps. I contacted them last August and told them about the project. I’ve explained its aim to them, spent many hours discussing details but also gaining their trust. We started filming in September and finished at the end of October. I specifically asked them not to feel pressed to do something but to simply call me when they have inspiration for a new work.

The real terrorism is the 8 o'clock news

“The real terrorism is the 8 o’clock news” – by Paul

A lot of people thing that graffiti artists simply get a bunch of coloured sprays and paint whatever they want, just like that. While many might as well do that, the above mentioned four artists usually do some sort of preparations that can take from 1 hour to 1 week, if not even more. In addition, in Greece we tend to think that these people belong to some far left fractions, that they are vandals in the same uncritical way that our society equates vandals, rioters and anarchists. Well, they are not. They are normal people, with normal professions, having normal lives. They do not belong to the same party, group or organization; they don’t necessarily know each other either. In fact, they come from very diffrerent backgrounds. But the have one common thing which helped me give a title to the documentary in a way that it includes all of them.

"Wake Up!" by Bleeps (Photo by G. Nikolakopoulos)

“Wake Up!” by Bleeps (Photo by G. Nikolakopoulos)

They try to pass a message to the rest of the society. A wake up call.

Here is the short-documentary. I hope you enjoy it.

You can find out more about the short-doc, watch the trailer and check extended galleries on the artists’ works, here: thewakeupcall.gr

The Wake Up Call trailer

At last, my personal project which occupied most of my free time in the past 2-3 months is nearing its end. It’s a short-documentary on the political graffiti in Athens during the Greek crisis, an idea that originally came from this very blog.

This is the trailer of the documentary, I hope you like it and share it around.

The Wake Up Call – trailer (English subtitles) from Kostas Kallergis on Vimeo.

If you want to find out more, you can visit the dedicated website for this project, www.thewakeupcall.gr. Stay tuned for the main video which will probably be ready in a week from now.

Cirque de Grèce

Saw this today and thought that it’s funny. These are two very important reasons why I decided to post it here.

Unemployment (by Absent)

It’s inspired by a poster of “Alegria” (a show by Cirque du Soleil) which has filled Athens’ ad spaces these days. The guy is our Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras and the word is “Anergia” which means Unemployment in Greek.

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Wake up call

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A message below the statue of a runner in Athens’ Syntagma square.

How the Greek economy shares a pie

A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.

Edgar Watson Howe (1853-1937)

Stencil made by Mapet.