Tag Archives: graffiti

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.

Fear. Loathing. Athens

 

Magasinet cover (supplement magazine in DN newspaper, Norway)

Magasinet cover (supplement magazine in DN newspaper, Norway)

A great article by Norwegian journalist Eskil Engdal on the situation at Perama neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in Athens with an unemployment of more than 50%. It’s front page title says “Fear. Loathing. Athens. Merry Crisis and Happy New Fear”. Eskil left Athens with the impression that there is a lot of fear in Greek society. Average Greeks are afraid of losing their jobs, or of a grim future for their children. They are afraid of what the next day will bring. Migrants are afraid of Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn is afraid that migrants will change the demographics of the country, they will turn Greece to an islamic country, or simply that they will “steal” our jobs. Eskil is not wrong.

Tomm Christiansen produced some great photos for the article and the newspaper accompanied the online version of their story on Greece with my short documentary on political graffiti “The Wake Up Call“.

The cover’s graffiti is by Sidron and it’s a block away from Athens’ historic Polytechnic.

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.

Greece 2012

The things that are happening are starting to be too many. They can overwhelm you. We are living in a kind of post-apocalyptic situation where everything is collapsing. Incomes, values, morality… A society that is suffocating. Here’s how I saw Greece today, 12 October 2012, through some headlines.

Graffiti by Sidron – NDA Crew, photo by Kostas Kallergis

Unemployment has reached 25,1% (official stats for July 2012). Among young people the number is 54,2%. Yes, 1 out of 2 young Greeks is looking for a job. Needless to say that among those who are working, there is a percentage who doesn’t get paid. Employers owe more and more salaries to their employees because of cash shortages. But these are just percentages, misery turned to statistics. You only need to sit down and think that, practically, around 1.000 Greeks are losing their job every day. One thousand people. Every day.

The government is about to announce another round of harsh austerity measures. Lots of cuts and more taxes. How much more can you tax a country? How are they going to pay? Where on earth did economic growth come thanks to more and more taxes? The country gave what it had to give, now it’s time for the officials to see that their predictions for more state revenues through taxes are superficial. Some days ago, one of the biggest dairy firms in Greece (FAGE) announced that it is moving part of its operations, for accounting purposes of course, to Luxembourg. Some days later another one among the biggest Greek companies (Coca-Cola) made a similar announcement sending shockwaves to the markets.

On another weird story, the Minister of Maritime Affairs spoke to an audience at the Maritime Club of Piraeus. He told people there that the troika had this idea. To evacuate all the islands which are inhabited by less than 150 people in order to cut down on public expenses (coz they still need schools, doctors, local administration and subsidised transport connection to the mainland). Of course, it was not an official request from the troika but probably a lower level official making a joke. But the Minister, like any random amateur, said this in public. And the Minister of Finance, who in theory carries out the day-to-day negotiations with the troika, suddenly became something like a troika spokesman, denying here and there that such a request was made. And these people are serious. Our Ministers. Seriously!

This is the situation in which we live for the past two and a half months. Since August the government is spending all its energy carrying out some hidden negotiations with the troika, deciding how they are going to cut 11,5 billion euros from the state budget. One day the Greek government says “this is how we’ll do it” and the other day the troika says “you can’t raise so much money out of it-just fire 10.000 public sector employees’. Government officials, and the Finance Minister Mr Stournaras himself, have informed a number of EU, ECB and IMF officials about what the measures are going to be. But the Greek public… noooo… of course we are not mature enough yet to know. We will be the last ones to find out how much we will be called to pay, how much more tax we should give. Which other nation has been so patient to await for 2,5 months to see how its government, its supposed guardian of its interests, is going to kick  our ass?

And on the top of that, a bunch of Golden Dawn far-rightists, accompanied by two of their MPs and a mob of Christian fanatics, have attempted to block the premiere of a theatrical play. A journalist reported that he got beaten by them-here’s his story made by uniting some of his tweets after his ordeal:

“At the entrance of the theatre, there were Golden Dawn and priests tearing down the show posters and stepping on them.  I took out my mobile to take pictures for the blog. 5 Golden Dawners and a cop surrounded me. They ask ‘Are you a journalist?’ I say “I write for lifo”, hoping to escape a beating. Quite the opposite. They pull me aside, call me ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’, pull my beard, spit in my face, hit me in the stomach.  Cops nearby. I shout “They’re beating me, do something?” Reply : I’ve nothing, move along please. The cop’s wearing 3 stars. They put a lit cigarette in my pocket. A woman standing near warns me, in front of the cop. He pretends he hasn’t heard.  I start to get scared, move away from the entrance. They shout after me ‘Go away, you dirty faggot, go suck someone’s cock!’ I turn back to observe. A known Golden Dawn MP follows me, punches me twice in the face, knocks me down. Downed, I lose my glasses. The Golden Dawn MP kicks me. The police are exactly 2 steps away. Their backs are turned. Repeatedly, I shout to the cop “THEY”RE PUNCHING ME, DO SOMETHING!” Back still turned, he walks away. The rest of them shouting at me next to the police officer “Cry, you pussy, queen, little girl” We pass dozens of cops hanging out. I tell them I was beaten at theatre entrance. They ignore me. One blows me a sarcastic kiss.”

The police detained some Christian fanatics during the events. A bit later, one of their MPs, Christos Pappas, approaches a riot police bus and easily drags one of the detainees there. He set him free seconds later, with the policemen staring at him in awe, as if it was the Police Chief. Look for yourself how easy it was (most of the anti-fascist protesters who were arrested last week and were allegedly tortured inside the Police HQ in Athens are probably jealous of how easy it was for Mr Pappas to do this). Christos Pappas is with the blue suit and the tie.

Yes, my friend, this CAN happen in Greece today, as we become a less democratic state, every second day.

Wake up call

20120329-102323.jpg

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