Alexis Panselinos (born 1943 in Athens, Greece) is an award-winning Greek novelist and translator. He is the son of the poet and author Assimakis Panselinos (1903-1984) and Ephie Pliatsika-Panselinos (1907-1997), also a poet and novelist. He studied Law at the University of Athens. He is a resident of Athens, married to the novelist Lucy Dervis.
His first book, a collection of four stories, appeared in 1982. In 1986 he published his first novel, The Great Procession, which obtained a national award. In 1997 he was the Greek candidate for the European Literary Award (Aristeion) with his third novel, Zaida or the Camel in the Snow In 2012 he was awarded by 'Diavazo' Magazine for his novel The Dark Inscriptions in 2012.
Several of his books (The Great Procession, Zaida or The Camel in the Snow, The Dark Inscriptions and Betsy Lost) have been translated into other languages including Italian, German, English and Polish. He has also translated novels from English and German.
Alexis Panselinos spoke* to “Greek News Agenda” about the influence of his parents in his decision to become a writer, the characters of his books, the economic crisis, as well as about his latest book Light Greek Songs.
You are an awarded writer and your work has been highly appreciated. What influenced your decision to become a writer? How much did the fact that your father, Asimakis Panselinos, was also a famous writer contribute to this decision?
I was born at a time when people were reading books, went to the theatre and cinema. We had a library in our home and the presents I received on festive occasions were mainly books. I was enthralled by literature and I began writing in my early teens. Both my parents were writers. At home, we’d have poets, artists, and novelists coming and going all the time, the tone was vividly artistic in every regard, so I had the opportunity to grow and develop my flair for writing from an early age. My early works were written with the conviction that as an adult this -writing- would be my main occupation and my life.
How do you choose the characters in your books? To what degree do their toughness and imperfection inspire you and what room do you leave in your works for the optimism of life?
My approach is realistic. My writing may play fantasy games, but I use it to intensify the clarity of the view on people and life. None of my heroes is tough per se, people are complex and toughness often covers up their fears and weakness. People are imperfect, and this makes us human. Our weaknesses, our mistakes, are interwoven with our dreams, with love, with the fear of death, with our ideals which, even when betrayed by our weakness, remain within us like a festering, open wound. Life itself is an optimistic situation. As long as one is alive, he fights, hopes, dreams; and that’s optimism.
Do you like changing your narrative style, experimenting with writing forms?
I actually don’t like repeating myself, and I strive for different forms with every book. This is also the case because the choice of subject every time entails a different form by itself. The subject determines the form, the subject has its own requirements and it is served more efficiently by a particular technique, a different style. My personal obsessions may not change, but there are a thousand different ways of looking at them - and that's what I do. All in all, I write the same book over again, and a sensitive reader can grasp this.
Today, many Greeks are suffering on account of the economic crisis. Do you believe that art, and literature in particular, has been positively or negatively affected?
The economic crisis we are going through is not something new. We have experienced it in the past, and I could go as far as saying that it has never gone away. In one way or another, Greek society, as well as many others around the world, is experiencing a crisis. History, communities, people and countries, are in a state of permanent crisis. History is the process and the successive mutations of this crisis. And literature has a double role - on one hand to depict it, and on the other hand by way of metaphor to turn it into consolation, a breath of hope and optimism for the future - because the beauty of life and the world still exist to support us even in the most distressed, and the most difficult circumstances. The country has lived through a decade of foreign Occupation and Civil War, and people who lived through these horrendous times have managed to create and hope, to fight and overcome the disaster. I cannot see why the current crisis will not be overcome.
You come from Lesvos. What is the image you have of the island following the refugee wave that has overwhelmed it in recent years?
With Lesvos, I have a distant relationship, but also one of deep love. I was not born there, but in Athens – in the heart of the city as a matter of fact. I have visited Lesvos only a few times and always as a tourist rather than as a returning native. I visited the island last year in the spring, at a time when the Moria refugee camp was already in operation: refugees and migrants had already been moved from the harbor area where acute problems for the inhabitants of Lesvos had been created, but the sight of the camp in Moria, with its high metal fencing topped with coils of razor-barbed-wire, as well as the concrete shelters where these people were living in made my heart freeze. It seems that the situation has gotten much worse since then. It is both sad and outrageous.
Your last book, Light Greek Songs, refers to the 1950-1953 period, a time that was marked by the execution of Nikos Beloyannis, with the wounds of the civil war still open, but also a time when there was hope of rebuilding the country, when there was need for security and carefreeness. What prompted you to choose to depict, and very successfully too, this particular era?
In my book Light Greek Songs I endeavor to look at the history of the country as a whole, from the end of the Civil War to the present. I am concerned with the construction of a post-war and post-civil war country, in the form it took under the governance of the winning side, preserving the acrimony, rancor and spite, along with the destructive maladies that have brought us to the current crisis, which aside from economic is also moral and political. So the nostalgic gaze upon the Athens of my childhood is tinged by the awareness of the distorted evolution of our society which was based on division, preventing us in the process from realizing that we are part of the same society and that our actions concern us as a whole and not only as individuals. The so-called “light” popular songs of that era were the people’s call for beauty, optimism, peace and progress. My novel is not an ethography of the ’50s; it is an anatomy of the contemporary deadlock, the bankruptcy and discrediting of political thought and action, of intolerance and the absence of goals. The reader should see through the lines of this light-hearted, distant narration - as one should through those cheerful melodies, the buoyant rhythms and the often naïve lyrics of those 50s songs, hear the beat of peoples’ hopes, who throughout the 1940’s had been bleeding and experiencing darkness and despair.
What message would you like to convey to writers of the younger generation?
A writer must stand courageously in front of the mirror that is his art. To see his face clearly, to reject flattering disguises and to recognize in his image the image of the society that surrounds him. He must also not forget that art has its rules and that a writer’s basic tool is language.
*Interview by Marianna Varvarrigou
Read also via Greek News Agenda: Writer Vangelis Raptopoulos on “The man who burned down Greece”; Kostas Katsoularis on Books as Living Organisms and Book Readers as a Species Facing Extinction; Nikos Mandis on Fiction, Labyrinths and Athens as the Main Protagonist
The San Francisco Greek Film Festival (SFGFF) celebrates its 15th year with a rich film selection. The Festival annually showcases the work of Greek and Cypriot filmmakers from around the world, aiming to inspire, engage, and entertain its diverse audience. The SFGFF accepts film submissions in all categories. The audience votes for their favorites in the feature-length film and short film category for The Astron Award.
The Festival program includes 24 feature-length films and shorts by Greek and Cypriot filmmakers from around the world. Among the Festival’s feature films are “Rosemarie” by Adonis Florides, “Polyxeni” by Dora Masclavanou and “Cloudy Sunday” by Manoussos Manoussakis who will be this year's artist-in-residence and will also facilitate with Q&As and provide context for the films throughout the week. The festival program also includes Tasos Boulmetis’ docudrama “1968” and short fiction film “Mum, I’m back” by Dimitris Katsimiris. All filmshave English subtitles.
Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos
To celebrate its 15th year, the festival will host Closing and Opening Nights at the Premier Theater at Lucasfilm and Dolby Cinema at the Dolby Laboratories headquarters respectively.
The Festival’s events include the Opening night at Lucasfilm’s Premier Theater at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio on Friday, Oct. 12. Greek film master Pantelis Voulgaris will present his latest film, “The Last Note”, about the execution of Greek resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation of WWII. The festival will present Voulgaris with an award to honor his legacy in Greek cinema. Writer Ioanna Karystiani and producer Yiannis Iakovidis are also expected to attend the screening.
On closing night on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Dolby Cinema, the festival will present the first-ever Spyros P. Skouras Lifetime Achievement Award to Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos. The award was created and sponsored by Tom Skouras, festival Advisory Board member and nephew of the late Skouras, to honor outstanding film industry professionals of Greek descent. The reception will be followed by screening of Dora Masclavanou’s “Polyxeni”.
Katerina Mavroudi – Steck: “We don't want the crisis to dominate the conversation about Greece”
On the occasion of the 15th Festival Edition, Greek News Agenda interviewed* SFGFF co - director Katerina Mavroudi-Steck on its history, programming and selection criteria. Born and raised on the island of Crete in Greece, Katerina Mavroudi-Steck came to the United States to complete her studies in Economics and has made it her home for the last 36 years. She worked for several years in the Silicon Valley for a high tech company but for the last ten years she has worked for the San Francisco Greek Film Festival and other events which celebrate and promote the arts, history, and culture of Greece. Mavroudi underlined that the Festival was established as an alternative way to celebrate Greek Culture. Regarding the crisis effect on the image of Greece, she stressed that it's up to the films to give people a deeper and more nuanced picture of Greek society and, although the crisis has definitely left its marks, “we don't want the crisis to dominate the conversation about Greece”.
"Polyxeni" (2018), dir. Dora Masclavanou
What was the rationale of establishing the San Francisco Greek Film Festival?
The San Francisco Greek Film Festival was established to highlight the latest independent films from the Greek World. In America, Greek communities often celebrate our culture through food and folk dancing. It's great that we do this, but we also felt it was important to create a space to celebrate Greek cinema, which is a special art form that deserves a platform. At the time that we established the festival in 2004, we were one of the few festivals in America celebrating Greek film. Every year, we receive more and more film submissions and we screen an increasing number of films at each festival. We are celebrating our 15th Anniversary this year, making it the longest-running festival of Greek and Cypriot cinema in the country.
What do you think about contemporary Greek cinema?
We strive to feature a variety of film styles and formats: shorts, features, documentaries, dramas, comedies, and everything in between. Attending one of our festivals keeps you on the pulse of what's happening in Greece (and the diaspora) in that moment in time.
"Rosemarie" (2017), dir. Adonis Florides
What are the criteria for your selection and programming?
Films have to be connected with Greece or Cyprus in some way. They could be Greek or Cypriot productions, the filmmakers or star actors could be of Greek or Cypriot descent, or films could be about these countries.
What is the impact of the Festival in the community?
Since the festival was founded in 2004, it has screened 268 movies, hosted 36 Greek and Cypriot filmmakers and other special guests from the film industry, and has inspired, engaged, and entertained more than 9,000 attendees. We love bringing the San Francisco and Greek film communities together every year and look forward to growing and expanding our impact.
"Mum, I'm back" (2017), dir. Dimitris Katsimiris
Do you help filmmakers come into contact with representatives of the film industry?
During the week of our festival, the filmmakers get to network with the other visiting guests from the industry and we try to arrange for visits with the San Francisco Film Society or Lucas Studios.
The San Francisco Greek Film Festival is a program of the Modern Greek Studies Foundation and proceeds benefit the educational initiatives and cultural presentations of the Foundation. It's a nonprofit organization with an active board of trustees and the festival is the organization's signature annual event.
"Cloudy Sunday" (2016), dir. Manoussos Manoussakis
How has the crisis influenced the way Americans think of Greece and what is the influence of Greek cinema on their perceptions, if any?
Americans love Greece — this hasn't wavered too much despite the economic crisis. American media outlets haven't been covering the crisis lately, so it's up to our films to give people a deeper and more nuanced picture of what's happening today and all the ways it affects Greek society.
The economic crisis undoubtedly comes up as a topic in our film selections. This year's short "The Ticket" («ΤοΕισιτήριο») is a good example. But Greek filmmakers have a lot more to say, and we don't want the crisis to dominate the conversation about Greece.
* Interview by Florentia Kiortsi
Read also in our series of interviews about Greek Cinema Filming Greece: Manoussos Manoussakis: “The Fight Against Nazism is Always Contemporary”, Tassos Boulmetis: Strangely Enough, the Crisis Promotes Greek Cinema, Dora Masklavanou on giving voice to the outcasts, Dimitris Katsimiris takes a walk on the dark side
Carefree people sunbathing, beautiful women smiling in their swim suits, wrapped in the glossy escapist visual style of the 50’s. But what do these people think about? “What lies behind the summer holiday smiles?” is the question Charis Tsevis poses in his latest art exhibition of digital mosaics on canvas, titled Endless Summer, opening at The Collection Gallery in Nicosia, with the support of the Ministry for Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information. The exhibition was successfully held in Paphos (21.09 - 21.10.2018) and it will run from 14 of November to 15 December in Nicosia.
Charis Tsevis is a Greek visual designer living and working in Pafos. He holds a Diploma in Graphic Design from the Akademie für das Grafische Gewerbe, München and a Master in Visual Design from the Scuola Politecnica di Design, Milano. He manages a studio on the island of Cyprus serving clients all over the world. His client list includes companies like Nike, Google, Ferrari, PepsiCo, Toyota and IKEA, advertising agencies like TBWA\Chiat\Day, Saatchi & Saatchi LA, DDB Munich and Leo Burnett Hong Kong and media like Time, Fortune, Wired and the Wall Street Journal.
Charis is a visiting professor of Editorial Design and Typography at the AKTO College in Athens since the year 1996. He has also presented seminars at the Panteion University of Athens and he has given lectures in numerous national and international conferences and symposiums. Charis is often writing articles about design theory, aesthetics and history of computing in some highly respected art and IT magazines in Greece (+design, RAM etc). He has also written 2 books about Adobe Photoshop.
Charis Tsevis signing limited edition art prints on the opening of the new Delta Airlines Sky Club in San Francisco International
Charis' work was awarded in ED Awards (Europe), Epica Awards (Europe), NPSA (USA), Behance (USA), EBGE (Greece) and others. He was named for 4 times in a row as one of the 200 World's Best Illustrators by Lürzer's Archive. Charis' work has been featured in many books, magazines and websites around the world. His art work has been presented in exhibitions in Athens, Barcelona, San Jose and other cities around the globe.
On the occasion of his latest art exhibition, Greek News Agenda interviewed* Charis Tsevis on his artistic influences and international career. Tsevis underlined the importance of his use of the social media as well as his participation in virtual creative communities in pursuing his international endeavor. He also stressed that there is a vivid but fragmented Greek design scene. Talking about his “Endless Summer” exhibition, he explained that he exorcised his fear of old age with youthful images of beauty, urging to seize the day, while at the same time he used holiday photos as a means to explore the human nature in the so called “best time of the year”. Last but not least, Tsevis underlined the perpetual need for a graphic designer to study and share knowledge as education is the number one need for Greek design.
"The Moments gate": A mosaic mural on the walls of Delta Sky Club in San Francisco International airport
You’ve had an international career so far and you have worked with multinational companies (Nike, Toyota, Coca-Cola), media enterprises (Wall Street Journal, Time and CNN) and advertising companies (Leo Burnett Hong Kong, Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles and Publicis New York). How difficult was it to go beyond Greek borders?
Since my early childhood my family has encouraged me to look far beyond the Greek borders. Back in the 70s and early 80s Greece was isolated in a corner of the Balkans but I was lucky to have a family of simple people who haven't travelled a lot but always believed that we should try to surpass the limits. The only member of the family who really travelled the world was my grandfather. He was another Greek sailor passing months away from his home. But whenever he was coming back he was bringing me these incredible gifts from America or Europe that looked so much bigger and brighter than anyone else's in my neighbourhood.
And then my father wanted my sisters and me to take international education. My parents made real sacrifices to send us to German or French schools and they were raising us with the belief that we are citizens of the world. So it was natural for me to try to push my carrier abroad and I had even tried to physically leave Greece for studies and work.
But even if I loved the idea of my international citizenship, I am very Greek when it comes to where I like to live. I couldn't see myself easily in any other environment than the sunny blue one of our country. With the social media boom I found a way to travel without really leaving Greece. Online tools such as Flickr or Facebook are great media to reach the international audience. I have methodically tried to be part of various creative communities online and at a certain moment I have been lucky to see my work published by some important sites etc. This was the start I needed. Was that difficult? I don't see it like this. I have enjoyed all the years’ long process. The journey was really worth it.
Yes We Can. Again. Mosaic portrait of President Barack Obama made out of the three words of the YES WE CAN moto. Created for Democrats Abroad during the U.S. presidential campaign 2012
You have worked for political campaigns. How has this experience affected you?
I was always very interested in projects of big scale. Directing a visual message to a massive audience is so challenging and educational. In politics a designer should communicate a generic message to the masses but at the same time he has to speak directly to every single one of the voters. Every one of them wants to be treated as an individual, not as a part of a target group. Keeping my visual tone general and private at the same time is an exercise I love. Politics is for me the highest art and science of all as it’s a combination and an orchestration of every single art and science. So I can’t find a more appealing field for my work.
Mural at the House of the USA, the headquarters for the American Olympic team in Rio 2016 Olympics
You are an artist and entrepreneur; is there a clash between the two?
What I’m trying to do is to see the artistic part of business and vice versa. That way the one hand helps the other. I’m an artist who is recognizing the importance of the business side of our work. I want my art to find its audience and I want to create the right environment for my business to be sustainable and give me a good life. I’m confident in my art but I’m always considering myself a very entry level entrepreneur. This is why I’m studying and working hard in that field. Understanding your limitations is always very helpful and at the end of the day it helps you finding ways to surpass them.
The "Endless Summer" art exhibition poster
The works in your exhibition are characterised by nostalgia, they are an ode to eternal youth. Would you like to elaborate?
Maybe I’m growing old and cultivating more nostalgia... maybe I’m always a student of history who believes that you can find great answers for the future in the past. And yes, I belong to these classic artists who praise the youth when it comes to beauty. The idea of a series of artworks inspired by a beautified image of retro Summer scenes came to me when I moved to Pafos and was living very close to the sea. Cyprus is a place with 10 months of sunshine and the hotels in Pafos are open all year long.
So I was observing the people in the beach in various seasons of the year. I started to guess what they were thinking and mostly what they were feeling. How their so called “best time of the year”, the holidays, is affecting them. I found that a very strong element of holiday lifestyle is photography. People make thousands of photos. So I wanted to use these photos in my art. We all know that some of them are still significant. But most of them are forgotten or hidden in our deep memories. So the true value of the photos is the moment they capture, especially if they were shot in a true happy moment. I will leave it to my viewers to judge if the photo shot they are seeing was really happy of not. What I wanted to do is to just kick start a discussion.
"Lionel Messi: The compass" Self initiated project based on experimentations with trencadis and other related ceramic tiles techniques
Which artists have you been influenced by?
They are so many obviously. I have a big respect for every art form or genre and I wish I had limitless time to dedicate to study all of them. What I could say answering your question and giving a tip to a younger artist is that I am finding a solid foundation in the Italian futurism and the school of Gestalt psychology. Then I have always been a true believer of machine and computer art.
Futurism is one of the very first strongly political art movement. Based on the incredibly powerful concept of cubism and using all these great ideas that were born between the late 19th and the early 20th century. It was also a movement that praised the machine, the industry and the futurists were some of the very first who used machines to produce sonic and visual art. Gestalt is giving a visual designer the scientific tools to analyze how our brain understands what we see and how we translate images to ideas and emotions. I could mention numerous artists and theorists but I would just pay tribute to some few ones who I had the privilege to call professors. Nino Di Salvatore, Augusto Garau, Bruno Munari, Carlo Nangeroni. These guys had a unique influence on my thinking and my creativity. I should probably add Steve Jobs as the genius of the "go-to-market" strategy and branding in today's world.
"Made in Athens". A mosaic portrait of NBA star Giannis Antentokounmpo based on the actual map of the part of Athens where he is born and raised. Created for Nike
What do you think about Greek visual design? What were the effects of the economic crisis?
Greek visual design school is existent and strong. Sometimes you can see a provincial or imitating character but this is not something just Greek. Greece has always been a country of heroes. So there are heroic designers in today’s Greece, people who are creating amazing work in very difficult circumstances. I could mention at least 100 important Greek designers and they are many more in a small country like Greece.
So we have great individuals. But what we Greeks often forget is to be team players. So the design scene is fragmented in many amazing but small groups. But this is our identity. This may be difficult to change.
Crisis helped and damaged at the same time the Greek design community. Many good designers had to leave but this is not always negative. As said before, Hellenism has always been an idea greater than the borders of Greece.
For me what Greek design really needs is the Academia. Crisis limited the schools and kept people away from design education. I believe that the number one need for Greek design is education. Schools, libraries, books and publications. A real movement is based in real ideas not just trends and ephemeral tricks. This is not only a Greek problem. But in the times of Instagram and eternal scrolling what we need is long textbooks with ideas and concepts to study.
What I would ask my colleagues is to dedicate some time in their week to study, to read and then to teach and share knowledge. What I would ask the Greek authorities but also everyone else involved in the public dialog to do is to invest more in education and culture. It’s our only weapon and our best hope for the future.
CharisTsevis, Visual Designer - Presented by LoveGreece.com from LoveGreece.com on Vimeo.
* Interview by Florentia Kiortsi. Special thanks to Dr Aikaterini Lambrou, Head of the Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus.
The Biennale of Western Balkans (BoWB) is a new cultural project, taking place for the first time in the city of Ioannina, in the region of Epirus in Northwestern Greece, on 5-20 October 2018. The organisers' vision is to examine intangible cultural heritage and community values in a contemporary context, in connection with art and new technologies. It features the main event “Bubble”, the exhibitions “Weaving Europe, Weaving Balkans”, “Sonic Minds” and “Common Myths”, the symposium “Visual Ecotopias”, the conference “Intangible Meetings” and an “Un-co-nference”.
the term "intangible cultural heritage" stands for the collective cultural expressions of everyday culture, from small to expanded communities. Artifacts of intangible cultural heritage encompass community values through collective creation. They promote cooperative models of creation along the history of cultures (tradition, anonymous creation, copying practices), evolve over time and appear afresh in the present, serving as a beacon of inspiration for the future.
BoWB explores the new artistic and creative directions of intangible cultural heritage, particularly valuing contributions that examine "lesser known bodies of knowledge, collective, anonymous and non-textual works, women theorists, undiscovered collections, and projects that create interconnections of smaller scenes with wider ones". The aim is to support and present contemporary art that can engage aspects of intangible cultural heritage of the Greek and Western Balkan communities, and of the European and international field as well.
Our sister publication, GrèceHebdo, spoke* with BoWB’s director, Dr. Christos Dermentzopoulos, Associate Professor of Anthropology of Art, Film and Cultural Studies at the School of Fine Arts of the University of Ioannina, on the intentions and ideas of the organisers of this initiative.
How did the first Biennale of the Western Balkans originate and what are its objectives?
The idea emerged from the need to take a fresh look at the notions of tradition, technology, contemporary art and the audiences’ perspective under new circumstances. However, the original concept and the core of our action was not the creation of yet another Biennale of contemporary art focusing on visual arts, but instead a thematic Biennale that will encompass and support contemporary art in its association with the new input offered by open technologies and other forms of commons.
Moreover, our main concern is the intangible cultural heritage, which has been the subject of much discussion lately, and which we want to explore it in depth and from a particular angle. After all, works of intangible cultural heritage can inspire new artistic expressions and new conjunctions as a source of creativity for the future.
Finally, our main objective is to create a new model of management for intangible cultural heritage, through a platform and network that will bring tradition’s lesser known works to the forefront, as well as put emphasis on interdisciplinary research in the field of cultural heritage and on the creation of a dialogue zone in the region of the Western Balkans, and beyond.
Tell us more about folk culture and intangible cultural heritage: how are these subjects approached by the BoWB?
The BoWB’s tagline is “Tradition anew!” and concerns the way we nowadays perceive tradition and, more specifically, the elements of the intangible cultural heritage. We want to explore new attitudes towards tradition’s most conventional corpus and to give new perspectives to its use and reuse. Tradition obviously constitutes a field in need of a new approach, one that would be beyond any aesthetic or nationalistic views. We have to look at it as a living element of everyday culture, not as a relic put on display at festivals and fairs.
There are artistic, academic and local forces inspired by tradition, revisiting it with an innovative view and giving it new perspectives. This is the purpose behind the tagline: to discuss, to reflect on these issues and to propose new collaborative, artistic and aesthetic axes of development. The issue of intangible cultural heritage has become an imperative question for international organisations and it is, of course, a hot topic, both due to the establishment of a new field with unclear boundaries, and to the prospect of developing new cultural policies.
We focus, however, on this concept because it offers many opportunities to revisit neglected subjects, to see their new possibilities through interconnecting with communities, developing and reviving patterns that are worth conserving and evolving with new perspectives. The notion of tradition has generally been abused both through modernist attitudes and through nationalistic connotations and, as a result, everyone gives a different definition to this concept and to what we now call “the intangible cultural heritage”. We therefore want to discuss, illuminate and promote the intangible cultural heritage as a new venture with great prospects, and do that in an ambiance of solidarity, cooperation and interrelation.
What is the relationship of Greece, and the city of Ioannina in particular, with the neighboring countries? Is there a sense of a common identity for the Western Balkans?
The sense of a common identity is present throughout the Balkans. The Western Balkans constitute a distinctive geopolitical entity, and it remains to be seen if they also form a special cultural entity. This is one of the topics to be examined as part of the Biennale. Let us not forget, however, that identities are now considered as hybrid, composite, constantly evolving constructions; something that is actually quite evident if we think of the Balkans.
“Plastique Fantastique” temporary space for BoWB’s main event, “Bubble”
How do you intend to engage the local community in the BoWB? How can events of this sort, in general, involve a wider audience, instead of a small elite of experts?
Epirus is the region with the smallest number of festivals in Greece, and one those most affected by the economic crisis, with particularly low access to cultural goods. These elements highlight the need to develop such institutions. The city of Ioannina, as well as the entire region, has an exceptionally rich tradition of intangible cultural heritage, thanks to its key location within the Western Balkans, to the University of Ioannina which includes a recently established School of Fine Arts, to the 25 thousand students who bring youth to the project, to its rapidly growing tourism industry. It’s important to stress that we have a good cooperation between the Ministry of Culture -which endorsed the project from the start- the university, the Municipality of Ioannina, the Regional Administration and the local authorities, including the Historical Archive of Epirus, the Municipal and Regional Theatre of Ioannina and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina, which all embraced and supported the first Western Balkans Biennial. Our objective, however, is to engage the community in the project. We are interested in bottom-up initiatives that will inspire new actions and practices for the future, instead of a top-down approach from the so-called high art world.
Our vision is to create a new field of artistic and technological expression that focuses on folk culture in its multiple aspects and its interconnection with new open technologies. Taking also into account the trend towards refueling tradition, this effort can only be sustained thanks to a boost by the community or communities of any kind. Then it is important to establish a network of contacts and agents that are active predominantly in the Western Balkans, and who can contribute to the promotion and implementation of a model of culture-centric development in these areas.
Although the first Biennale focuses on the Western Balkans, the second one may target the international scene, without abandoning its localised perspective. It is of course very important for these multiple networks to bring forth young, talented people, with a deep knowledge of the fields that I describe, and who can contribute to the cultural development of their respective regions.
*Interview by Magdalini Varoucha. Translation by Nefeli Mosaidi
Stelios Rallis, Secretary General for Digital Policy at the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, gave an interview to Hara Tzanavara, for the “Efimerida ton Sintakton” Greek daily newspaper, speaking about the ministry’s initiatives to enhance the digital skills of students and young scientinsts, but also the general population, in an effort to tackle Greece’s digital divide.
Mr Rallis, there is the perception that new changes in technology will bring about the end of work. What is your opinion?
I think that these views are probably extreme. We do however understand that changes introduced by technology might cause unease to the citizens. We know that 65% of children who are currently in school will be employed in the future in jobs that today do not exist. We also know that in the future the use of artificial intelligence will be widespread; and we have come to terms with that. However, to go from that to predicting the end of work is a huge, unjustified leap of inference.
We are preparing ourselves for these changes. It is a key priority in our digital policy agenda to provide everyone with the qualifications that will allow them to successfully cope with these changes. This is achieved through the acquisition of digital skills which offer great opportunities to those who will first develop and master them.
What does the term “digital skills” entail and why have they become indispensable?
Our future prosperity could be founded on the digital sector. With the appropriate digital policies, it could contribute to Greece’s economic recovery after exiting the memoranda. In order to achieve that, we need to understand that digital skills are just as important as up-to-date digital infrastructures. These are both prerequisites for an equitable digital development.
We in the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media put our efforts into laying the digital foundations for the country regarding both infrastructure -fast internet connections for everyone- as well as skills training programmes for all. It hardly makes any sense having state-of-the-art infrastructures if citizens are not able to profit from it. It’s like having the best motorway while people don’t know how to drive… We need digital skills because they are fundamental for social and financial development. Training in digital skills combined with modern digital infrastructure is the cornerstone of a successful digital transformation of Greek society and economy.
What is the current digital skills landscape in Europe?
There is a broad consensus in Europe regarding the positive impact of digital skills on stimulating competitiveness, productivity, innovation and employability. However, Europe -including Greece- faces the paradox of high unemployment rates combined with a shortage of employees with competitive digital skills.
That paradox could be tackled through various initiatives. One of these is the European Commission’s proposal for the creation of the first ever Digital Europe programme, which includes the investment of €9.2 billion in order to align the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027 with increasing digital challenges. Of these, €700 million will be invested in the area of digital skills, to ensure that the current and future workforce will have the opportunity to easily acquire advanced digital skills through long-and short-term training courses and on-the-job traineeships, regardless of their Member State of residence.
What are the steps that Greece takes regarding the bridging of digital divide?
In our country the acknowledged difficulty that part of the labour force faces in accessing the new opportunities that digital transformation of economy offers, led the General Secretariat of Digital Policy, in collaboration with the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce, to design a project aiming at providing and/or upgrading the digital skills of the employees of private enterprises. This includes defining educational needs and offering consulting guidance, implementing professional training programmes as well as certifying the knowledge and skills of 15.000 employees who work in private sector enterprises, including those who are self employed or work on a seasonal basis, regardless their working sector. The details regarding this specific project and call for proposals are included in the Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation 2014-2020 (EPAnEK), one of the five sectoral operational programmes of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (the new NSRF) for the period 2014-2020.
We thus contribute to the improvement of Greece’s score in the European Ranking regarding digital skills. You know very well that in recent years Greece is in the lowest ranking due to the lack of cohesive policy on this issue. This has changed for the better. Since 2016, the “National Digital Strategy 2016-2021” has provided us with a road map of the steps necessary for Greece to be incorporated in the global digital map with a positive five-year outlook. Especially with regards to digital skills training and generational digital divide, we are in need of systemic changes. And we move in that direction.
Despite high unemployment rates, there is a shortage of employees with competitive digital skills. Taking that into account, have you planned any interventions in terms of developing digital skills which will manage to connect education with the labour market?
We are planning actions towards two directions. The first one is “Training and Certification provided to university students and young scientists for acquiring skills regarding application development and computer networks and systems management”, which provides students and young scientists with access to training opportunities. The project, with a budget of €13 million, aims to offer training and certification for up to 10.000 university graduands, postgraduate students, doctoral candidates and Hellenic Open University students in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), enhancing their skills in programming and operating systems (Development, Operations, Devops). By acquiring the above mentioned skills they will become more competitive and will support the development of digital economy based on innovation.
The project was designed and will be implemented by the General Secretariat of Digital Policy in collaboration with Information Society S.A., which will cooperate with about 20.000 Greek public and private training and education institutions. An electronic platform will be developed, where any potential student will be able to locate and choose the subject of their interest, the respective training institutions as well as the corresponding exam providing internationally verified certification. Each institution will receive a financing of €1,000 per trainee, valid only for students with successful exam results.
Are you planning any actions for digital skills training for the general population?
The projects are aimed at all citizens, with a special emphasis on women. The General Secretariat of Digital Policy in collaboration with the Hellenic Open University has designed the project “Creation and supplying of large-scale distance learning training programmes on digital skills and implementation of informative and training actions throughout Greece”. The purpose of this project is to develop and provide large-scale distance learning programmes on digital skills and carry out informative and training actions throughout Greece, and it has a €5 million budget.
It is aimed at a vast and geographically distributed population across the country, capitalising on the Open University’s expertise on distance learning issues. The educational material created will help enhance the digital skills of 250.000 citizens; there is also provision for the creation of a depository for open training resources, as well as for the creation of a collection and evaluation system for national data regarding digital skills.
The actions will not be restricted to distance learning programmes, but also to in situ training laboratories and relevant events across the country, with special emphasis on small urban areas and regions that have recently gained access to broadband networks, since the demand for information is higher there. In these areas we are going to create small PC workshops, which will remain in the Municipality so that the citizens from less privileged areas can also have access to the distance learning programmes.
Translation: Dimitra Panagiotopoulou & Nefeli Mosaidi
Lina Tonia (Photo by Nikos Begalidis)
Lina Tonia, is a young award winning composer born in Greece, in 1985. Her work list includes more than 100 compositions for orchestra, ensembles, operas and music for theatre that performed in Paris, Vienna, London, New York, Boston, Moscow, Weimar, Berlin, Edinburgh, Zagreb, Sofia, Plovdiv, Tirana, Athens and Thessaloniki.
She has been awarded prizes in several national and international composition competitions for her works. Among others, she received the first prize at Jungerson International Composition Competition in Moscow (2007), the Baerenreiter Award at the 12th International Via Nova Composition Competition in Weimar (2010), the title of “New Young Artist of the Year” from the Union of Greek Critics for Music and Theatre in Athens (2010).
She studied composition at the Department of Music in Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (2003 – 2008), with Professor Christos Samaras. She completed a PhD in Composition in Edinburgh University with distinction (2008 – 2012) under the supervision of the professor Nigel Osborne and Michael Edwards, where she was studying with a Greek National Scholarship from Union of Greek Composers (2008 – 2009) and IKY Foundation (2009 – 2011). She studied composition with Michael Jarrell at the Vienna University (2012 – 2013). She worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Music Theory & Composition with a fellowship of the Research Committee of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (2013 – 2014). She participated in many international composition workshops in USA, UK, Germany, France. She was also selected to participate at Manifeste Academy for young composers at IRCAM with Toshio Hosokawa, in Paris (2017).
Some of her works are published by Sconfinarte Editions under a pedagogical goal about contemporary music for young performers. Now, her works are publishing by Donemus Publishing House based in Hague.
Lina Tonia is founding member and artistic director of Meet the Art, artistic series of concerts and performances around Modern Art in Thessaloniki (2015 – 2016). She is teaching Composition and Aural Skills in Macedonia University, Department of Music Art and Science, in Thessaloniki from September of 2016. She gives lectures and seminars about composition and contemporary music. She is a jury member at ENKOR International Music Competition from 2014. She is a member of Greek Composer’s Union.
Lina Tonia talked to Greek News Agenda* about her artistic choices as a composer, stressing her quest for a unique way of expression, as uniqueness is the basis of evolution in art. Asked about the difficulties to endeavour in an international setting, she underlines that Greek musical tradition is less associated with contemporary music in comparison with the tradition of German or Austrian composers.
What prompted you to choose the composition of this kind of music?
The need to look for a new world of sounds in which nothing had been formulated in the same way in the past. The composer carries within him the responsibility of a creator, which makes him a "mastermind" of uniqueness. To this very need of a search for uniqueness, we also owe the evolution not only of music but also of art in general.
Many of your works have been awarded and have been performed all over the world, beyond Greek borders. How easy is it for Greek composers to present their work abroad?
I believe that the recognition of an artist or a scientist at a global level is the result of continuous and fully committed hard work in his field. In art and especially music, which involves a variety of aesthetical issues, it is not easy to endeavor in an international setting, even more so for us Greeks whose musical tradition is less associated with contemporary music (I mean the evolution of classical music) in comparison with the tradition of German or Austrian composers.
Do you think success at an early age encourages an artist creatively?
I feel it confirms the correct direction of the artist’s course and creates incentives.
The titles of your projects seem to prepare the listener for what he will hear. Do you consider your music “programme music” and, if not, to what extent can a non-musical factor influence you and how does it penetrate your musical discourse?
I do not consider my work “programme music”. As I have already mentioned, music has the power to introduce us into an unexplored world in which each person gives his own dimensions. This fact, combined with imagination, has often prompted me to use an extraneous element but perhaps also an unrealistic event to translate an unknown sound into my thoughts, such as the image of a sea of lava on the surface of the moon. Other times I am concerned about the relationship that links numbers or geometric shapes with the organization of my musical thinking, but all these are just things that create occasions.
What do you like to incorporate into your projects? Do you think a Greek element exists in your music, and if there is, how easy is it to recognize it through this kind of music?
The Greek element I feel is evident in my music mainly from the drama that characterizes it. I do not think about what I need to incorporate into my works. The musical speech I have developed almost guides me blindly. The Greeks have the fate of experiences from the nature of our country that are difficult to interpret or integrate into the perception of other peoples. The clear sky, the whiteness of the houses alongside blue waters, a carved stone, are all that inspire us consciously or unconsciously, and they guide us to share in every way the Greek light.
* Interview by Sophia Christaki and Ilias Iordanidis. Translation by Nicole Stellos.
Secretariat General for Media and Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media and Open University of Cyprus – Advanced Media Institute co-organize the "Media, Polis, Agora: Journalism and Communication in the Digital Era" AmiRetreat Conference 2018 from 27th to 29th of September in Thessaloniki, Greece. This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together scholars, professionals and practitioners from diverse fields to discuss the dynamic interplay of politics (polis), journalism and communication (media) and the public sphere (agora).
Greek News Agenda* talked with Associate Professor of Journalism and Communication and member of the Conference’s steering and scientific committee, Sofia Iordanidou, about the Conference objectives and issues of journalism in the digital era, media and communication. Sofia Iordanidou is Journalism and Communication Associate Professor at the Open University of Cyprus, Chairwoman of the «Advanced Media Institute, Applied Research in Communication and Journalism Since 2011, the MA Communication and Journalism has been developed and is being offered at the OUC, under her responsibility. She is the publisher of “Dimosiografia” journal and the website manager of dimosiografia.com.She has worked many years in the field of Journalism and Communication Strategy. In New York, she worked for the Voice of America and was the White House correspondent for newspapers in Greece, as well as responsible for the Mondale pre- election campaign. Iordanidou has worked as a journalist for both ERT and MEGA channels in Athens. Her extensive experience includes political consultancy and advisory to many companies in corporate communication.
Interview with Sofia Iordanidou
Has the Postgraduate program (MA) “Communication and New Journalism” of the Open University of Cyprus achieved its main goals in the field of academic research, as well as to prepare journalists for the current media market that goes through a crisis?
When we first initiated the program, the two skills that we deemed necessary for today’s journalists were resiliency and flexibility. The media field is ever-changing and crisis is affecting the profession in multiple ways. Every year, following the new trends and listening actively to the needs of the civic society, we adjust our curriculum accordingly. We give our students the opportunity not only to develop critical thinking on classical and more modern media and communication theories, but to practice methodologies and tools. Our stuff combines academic and media/ communications professional qualifications, bridging an existing gap in most journalism schools. We produce academic content, researching critical topics such as safety in journalism and, at the same time, we train the future leaders on media and communications.
The main issue is that, although we feel satisfied by the progress of the program, we never stop questioning, changing and disrupting the status quo in academia and in practice. We never rest, we continually build strong collaborations with international universities, research centres and organizations, in order to contribute to the improvement of our program and to stay competitive offering a relevant curriculum.
What was the underlying principles of your initiative to organize annual Retreat Conferences on emerging digital media issues since 2016 in Greece and Cyprus (Athens, Limassol, Thessaloniki)?
Advanced Media Institute and the Postgraduate Program “Communication and New Journalism” are two vibrant stakeholders in the media ecosystem in Greece and Cyprus. We couldn’t imagine ourselves abstaining from the important discourse on the future of journalism and communications. We focus on being a well-established think tank, a changing catalyst for the advancement of media, not only in theory, but in practice as well. In this context, we invite every year (since 2016) international and local “players” to share experiences, exchange knowledge, discuss, agree and disagree on flaming issues of our field. We are happy to leave our footprint, through our conferences and publications, inspire others and also give something back to our students, academic stuff, researchers and other partners to trust us. We aspire to challenge, provoke and stir up interest in how we can make journalism viable and trustworthy again. (149)
AmiRetreat Conference 2018 is tittled “Media, Polis, Agora: Journalism and Communication in the Digital Era” and will be held from 27th to 29th of September in Thessaloniki. Would you elaborate on the title and the programme of the Conference?
In a joint effort to redefine journalism, the main aim of this interdisciplinary conference is to explore the possibilities of a new modus vivendi between traditional and new media, journalists and academics, institutions and media companies.
The conference aims to bring together scholars, professionals and practitioners from diverse fields — including journalism studies, media and communication studies, political communication, sociology, critical humanities, policy and governance studies, technology studies, and cultural analysis– to discuss the dynamic and continuous pivotal interplay of politics (polis), journalism and communication (media) and the public sphere (agora). The conference will further discuss the challenges that the advancement in digital journalism, ethics and content creation, mediated public discourse, new media and positions, as well as mediated political, public and civic action bring to those three spheres.
Equally important, the conference seeks to build bridges between academia and the world of journalistic, media and political practice through several initiatives. The first one involves journalists or/and media professionals, where in each one of the three two-hour panel, they are expected to focus on whether there can be a trustworthy public speech, highlight the role of the producer and content manager, promote new forms of storytelling and highlight changes in the field as a result of technology advancements. The second initiative aims to bridge the academics with the journalists. In each two hour panel, academics are expected to highlight the links between theory and practice.
Greek Secretariat General for Media and Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media strongly supports and participates in the annual Retreat Conferences on Media, Communication and Journalism in the digital era which are being organized by the Open University of Cyprus since 2016. Do you believe that government services and people have a role in the digital era’s communication and journalism, and if so, could you define it?
Media and communication field’s purge should always be a collaborative effort. It is very important to have members of the Greek Secretariat General for Media and Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, not only as supporters, but as active and engaged participants to our Conferences.
Media owners, journalists, academia and government should sit together and co-create the new operational models for current media. Without interfering with content production, ministries and other authorities have the power to facilitate the wellbeing of media industries. The Greek example experienced governmental interference for many years before the private sector made its appearance. It’s very hard indeed to try to regulate the field without being part of the ecosystem, without understanding the actual needs.
*Interview by Dr Aikaterini Lambrou, Head of the Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus
The Ministry for Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information supports and actively participates in the 1st International Festival of Archaeological, Ethnographic and Historical Documentary and Culture (AEI-CineFest), held in Cyprus from 19th to 23rd September, 2018.
AEI-CineFest 2018 is part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 celebrations, and is organized by the documentary production company TETRAKTYS FILMS, in collaboration with the Municipality of Aglantzia, Nicosia, the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (RIK) and the Archeology Research Unit of the University of Cyprus.
The Greek Press and Communication Office of Nicosia, representing the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information, works closely with the Festival organizers with the aim of supporting entries from Greece and informing about initiatives of the Ministry in the audiovisual industry .
Specifically, Dr Aikaterini Lambrou, Head of the Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus, will present on Saturday, 22 September 2018, the new legal framework supporting the audiovisual industry in Greece and the attraction of film productions through specific incentives (Law 4487/2017), as well as the ongoing process at the National Centre for Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME).
At the AEI-CINEFEST 2018 International Festival events, taking place at the "Skali" cultural area, in the Municipality of Aglantzia, Nicosia, 28 documentaries of archaeological, ethnographic and historical subject matter from seven countries (Cyprus, Greece, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Serbia and Palestine) will be screened.
The entries from Greece are “St Valentine’s secret trip” by Yiannis Xirouhakis, “The Silence of Asia Minor” by Eleni Konstantinidou, and “Five good gliafia …three drachmas” by Dimitris Trangalos: Yiannis Xirouhakis, on the occasion of the return of the remains of St Valentine, brings to life the golden age of cosmopolitan Lesbos of the early 20th century; Eleni Konstantinidou records the ethnic, sociological and cultural changes of Asia Minor over the years; and finally, Dimitris Tragalos recounts beautiful childhood memories at the archaeological site of Elatia, Fthiotida, in the early 60s.
Interview with the Festival's artistic director
Film director Stavros Papageorgiou, the Festival’s artistic director, talked to Greek News Agenda* about his vision as well as the current state of documentary productions in Greece and Cyprus.
What was the initial motive that sparked the organization of an international Archaeological/Ethnographic/Historical film festival in Cyprus?
Holding a film festival of archaeological, ethnographical and historical documentaries has been a personal vision for some decades that has finally come to fruition this year. There were various reasons for doing this: Firstly, several Cypriot documentaries belonging to all three categories could not, for many years, be screened at any of the existing national festivals, on account of their thematic category; Secondly, Cyprus, an EU member-state, remained the only country without such a festival, which I consider very important, as the issues dealt with by these films contribute to the promotion, propagation and dissemination of the history and cultural heritage of Cyprus; Thirdly, my personal interest in producing such documentaries, some of which are ‘Entelechy’ (2010), ‘The Great Goddess of Cyprus (2015’, and Kiniras: Kytion Priest (in production phase)
Tell us more about your vision for the future of AEI-Cinefest, and documentary-film production in Cyprus and Greece, given the fact that people in the Mediterranean and Middle East region have in recent years experienced a multifaceted crisis (political, economic, cultural and moral).
AEI-Cinefest comes into being this year (with very good forecasts) after 2018 was declared European Year of Cultural Heritage and the Republic of Cyprus included our Festival in the official list of events. The initials in the ‘AEI’ acronym stand for Archeology, Ethnography and History, but there is also a special meaning: the word αει in ancient Greek means always/forever. So I think for certain that it was created to have a developmental path over time so as to serve the reason for its creation, as a conduit for the promotion and dissemination of the cultural heritage of Cyprus.
I am pleased to note that documentaries in Cyprus and Greece are gaining ground. However, they still have a long way to go to reach the level of documentaries from other European countries. Cypriot and Greek documentary makers are not in want of creativity and talent compared with others from around the world. Moreover, there is unlimited material from which documentary filmmakers can draw for their works. What is important is to focus on how to approach their subjects, while building synergies with colleagues and others working in the field in the international arena so as to allow their documentaries to travel around.
Do you believe in synergies in the audiovisual and other creative industries between the private sector and states, aiming for a win-win-situation?
Any form of synergy in the audiovisual sector with either public or private sector institutions / organizations is welcome and essential nowadays. Moreover, this is broadly the EU and European philosophy as regards the audiovisual sector: see e.g. CREATIVE EUROPE and EURIMAGES; and at national level, the Greek Film Centre; SEKin (Cyprus Cinema Advisory Committee); the National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication - EKOME S.A. etc
And through these synergies, whether they are sponsorships, co-productions etc., the benefit is mutual and undoubtedly contributes to the qualitative development of the audiovisual product and its export to other countries, with all the benefits (economic, cultural, political etc.) entailed.
Interviews with Yannis Xyrouchakis and Dimitris Trangalos
Greek News Agenda also interviewed* Yannis Xyrouchakis and Dimitris Trangalos - whose films Saint Valetine’s Secret Trip and Five good gliafia... three drachmas will participate in the festival - about their films, synergies and the current state of the audiovisual industry in the two countries.
Yannis Xyrouchakis has worked as film editor for ERT SA (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation), and has taught cinematographyand editing in “Make Your Own Movie” workshops. He has received an award for editing the documentary “The shepherd’s feast” at the 5th International Documentary Festival of Ierapetra (2018). His films include “Memories and testimonies – the long night of dictatorship” (2017); co-direction of two episodes -“Georgios Rallis” (2014) and “Anastasios Peponis” (2013)- of a Historic Documentary series for Vouli TV (Greek Parliament TV station,as well as two documentaries tittled “Ntikos Byzantios: the chronicle of forms” (2012), and “Periklis Byzantios a painter’s life” (2011).
What is your opinion of the audiovisual media industry in Greece and Cyprus at present?
The audiovisual industry in Greece faces major difficulties, the main one being funding. The number of producers has declined to a large extent and the consequences of decreases in funding are reflected on the final result. At the same time, several Greek TV series are produced in Cyprus to take advantage of lower taxation and lower production costs.
Tell us more about your documentary film that will be screened at the AEI-Cinefest 2018
In the film we follow the visit of an expert/ researcher from the Catholic community to the renovated Catholic Church in Mytilene. The church was restored following the persistent efforts of the Catholic Archbishop, so that the remains of St Valentine could be returned. The remains had been deposited in the church two centuries ago by Elisabetta Barghigli, a member of the Catholic community of Mytilene.
Do the relics belong to the Martyr Valentine? Yes, the Pope affirms. But then why has this unique event remained secret, buried with the relics of Valentine? And why is it being withdrawn from obscurity and oblivion now?
A historian from Mytilene, an architect who participated in the restoration of the temple together with the researcher, is looking for answers. Who was the saint whose relics are in Frangoklissia? What was Mytilene like in the 19th century and relations between its inhabitants? When were the remains removed and where have they been all these years? Why are they being returned now?
The Archbishop wants to preserve the history of the Catholic Church in Mytilene and to grant it prestige. The local community, politicians, merchants and hotel owners all wish to make good use of the discovery: "The island of Sappho and Elytis is also the island of all lovers." The commercialization of St Valentine continues to divide both church and society.
Saint Valentine's Secret Trip from Γιάννης Ξηρουχάκης on Vimeo.
Do you believe that synergies between the private sector and states in the audiovisual and other creative industries aim at a win-win-situation?
Such synergies add financial resources to the audiovisual industry, supporting and increasing the process of quality production, while states are financially bolstered by the funds invested in productions, which increase employment and boost their image. Support from state institutions is particularly important when it comes to the production of historical - folklore documentaries.
Dimitris Trangalos has studied mathematics, electronics and film directing. Since 1985, he has worked as film editor for the Greek public broadcaster. He has taught for many years Film editing at the Department of Cinema of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, as well as Film editing, Animation and Photography at several film schools in Athens. He has collaborated with the Greek Film Centre and Educational Television. His filmography includes “Five good gliafia …three drachmas” (doc. 79΄), (2018); “Donkey-island” - The last paradise (doc. 28΄) 2002; “Death or freedom” (documentary 34΄) 1997; “The most important game: (fiction 78΄) 1992 and more.
What is your view of the audiovisual media industry currently in Greece and Cyprus?
As far as Greece is concerned, the television landscape is quite dim. The audio-visual media industry, especially television, which offers "what the public wants", often offers products that do not meet principles of art and aesthetics. The need for easy profit and the high demand for products that would cover 24-hour programs ultimately results in quality downgrading. Unfortunately, the difficult financial situation of recent years does not facilitate the production of quality films and other TV products; it does not reflect the capabilities and talent in Greece.
Tell us more about your documentary film that will be screened at the AEI-Cinefest 2018.
"Five good gliafia ... three drachmas" is a docudrama. Gliafia is an idiom for all ancient coins (Greek, Roman and Byzantine) in the region of Elatia, in Central Greece, and the drachma was the national currency, before its replacement by the EU single currency, the euro.
In those years, the unprotected archaeological site of Elatia was a playground for children. They would fly their kites there, watch the Acropolis rally, and play football and other team games. Often, following heavy rain, we’d go there in search of ancient coins. It was also one of our games, until the day when a strange old man appeared in the village.
The film title refers to a transaction in which five ancient coins were exchanged for three drachmas. Out in country villages, in the early 60’s, three drachmas were a small fortune for a child. This money was enough to buy a few donuts and to watch the merry-go-round-of-death spectacle with motorcycles that would come to our annual village fair. A recent book by a teacher of mine, along with my childhood diary, has brought back memories of beautiful images and instances from those times.
Do you believe that synergies between the private sector and states in the audiovisual and other creative industries aim at a win-win-situation?
Motion picture and TV series are a group art, needing the co-operation of many skilled people to produce a decent quality product for each market. Private companies and individuals are not excluded from collaborations. They should indeed cooperate, always in respect of rules of art. Profit must not overshadow art, and we have many examples where remarkable works of art were also huge commercial successes.
* Interview by Dr Aikaterini Lambrou, Head of the Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus.
Translated by Magda Hatzopolulos, edited by Florentia Kiortsi.
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The composer Dimitris Marangopoulos was born in Athens where he began his studies in theory and composition which he completed with F.M. Beyer at the Music College of the BerlinBerlin University of the Arts.
His compositions have been performed in many countries including Canada, Turkey, Hungary, Sweden, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, the USA and the UK. His symphonic compositions have been performed by such orchestras as the B.B.C. Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic, Sofia Philharmonic, Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra, Athens State Orchestra, Armonia Atenea etc, with Operas staged by the Greek National Opera and special commissions for the opening ceremony of the new Planetarium in Athens together with a special music theatre piece for the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics which has been in repertoire at the Laterna Magica Theatre (National Theatre of Prague) in Prague.
The composer has also composed for film and stage, including productions of the Greek Classics for the Arts Theatre, Athens, under the direction of Karolos Koun, as well as collaborations with directors Spyros Evangelatos, Iakovos Kampanelis, Andreas Voutsinas and Sotiris Chatzakis. His church music has been performed at the Cathedral of Santa Margarita in Venice, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, Munich and Linz –Austria (European Capital of Culture).
In 1993 he became artistic director of the musical cycle “Bridges” at the Athens Concert Hall/Megaron. He became also artistic director (1996 – 2010) of the International Festival of Music and Performing Arts in Volos (Thessalia). He is Professor of Composition at the Department of Music Studies of the Ionian University who has also given lectures at the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College, King’s College London and the University of Music in Vienna.
The Press & Communications Office at the Embassy of Greece in London arranged an interview with Marangopoulos, where he spoke about his remarkable career and his views on the cultural landscape in contemporary Greece.
You are a Greek composer with extremely rich and diverse musical work, having composed music for symphonic repertoire, orchestra, chamber music, opera, theatre, cinema, songs and of course for the popular children’s radio programme “Lilipoupolis”. What inspires you and prompts you each time to choose what to compose in a specific music form and genre?
All of the above genres are just an external stimulation for a composer to express his inner world. The composer is like a music transformer whose thoughts and feelings, born through his contact with external world, are transformed into structured sounds -that is how Stravinsky defines music- that make up this wonderful, non-verbal communication and expression that is music.
External occasions such as commissions, specific events and collaborations have driven me to all these different genres while I was often pushing myself towards a specific direction that I felt fitted to my musical DNA.
How much has Manos Hadjidakis, with whom you have worked closely for a long time in the ‘70s, influenced your musical work? Are there any other Greek or foreign composers whom you admire and whose works you wish you had yourself composed?
Hatzidakis has hardly influenced my musical work in and of itself. However, I was lucky to have met him and worked with him during the unique period that he was heading the Third Radio Programme of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) and as a result I was influenced by his absolute authenticity and unique personality and by his holistic approach to music. He was one of the most important melody composers of Greek music while at the same time he was well-versed and he promoted deeply the whole of European artistic music, from Mozart to Mahler, including jazz, original traditional music and contemporary avant-garde music.
I admire works of composers like Riades, Skalkottas, Christou, the extraordinary symphonic works of Mikis Theodorakis, works of great Ioanian composers such as Rodotheatos, and all this only about artistic symphonic music. Besides, how can I not admire the power of a song of Attik, of Giannidis, of Tsitsanis, of Theodorakis, of Chatzidakis and of Vamvakaris?
Regarding your multifaceted symphonic musical work and your international career as a composer of classical music, do you think you are best known in Greece or abroad? How does the Greek audience differ from the audience in other countries when it comes to attending classical music concerts?
I was lucky to have my works performed both abroad and in Greece. The truth is that when you listen to your work being performed by an orchestra like the one of BBC or of Moscow, when you hear it performed in sacred and historical places like the Westminster Abbey and when it is presented for the first time and is supported by foreign institutions like Laterna Magic of the National Theatre in Prague, that is the point when you understand how much a composer depends on a good performance. The performer, the soloist, the orchestra consist the other half of the work that could either undermine it or elevate it.
You are a composer, a university professor and the main agent in important cultural initiatives (Volos Symphony Orchestra, Volos International Festival, GEFYRES Programme (BRIDGES), Open Platforms, Cinema Music Competition, etc.). How difficult is it to combine the introversion required for the composition of musical works with the extroversion required for academic and cultural activities? Which of these activities is at the top of your priorities?
The above activities originate naturally from my personality. It is not my livelihood needs that primarily contributed to this, without underestimating them. It is the love of teaching, and the fulfillment you get when you see joy and knowledge exaltation on the faces of the university students as well as the feeling of completeness that you experience when you contribute to an important artistic performance especially in places like the Athens Concert Hall, and in different regions of Greece where I headed important international cultural institutions. You get an underlying feeling of deep satisfaction when you see the audience feel and participate emotionally and mentally and change even slightly its view of the world.
All the above have not been obstacles to my work as a composer. I have always been offering composition my whole time and energy, and this helps me eliminate all fatigue either mental or physical.
Angela Najaryan, Paul Evernden (EOS ensemble)
You have recently collaborated with EOS Trio, a music ensemble composed of three talented musicians, the clarinet player of Greek origin Paul Evernden, the violinist Angela Najaryan and the pianist Jelena Makarova, who premiered in the UK your work "On the Crest of the Sea". Would you please tell us more about this collaboration and about this great ensemble?
I was really impressed by the dynamism and the high performance quality of this ensemble and especially by its attitude towards music. It is open to all contemporary musical expressions but moving with the same ease within the repertoire of older times. I was really glad when I was informed that the creative core of Paul Evernden and Angela Najaryan envision the scheme as a more versatile music ensemble that could be expanded embracing more musicians or operate in some cases as a duo. I believe that they have excellent prospects and they have already had a remarkable impact.
LILIPOUPOLI was one of the most successful children’s programmes on Greek radio in the 1970s. What do you think was the secret of its success? In your opinion, apart from its undeniable quality, how much did the social and cultural conditions of the ‘70s contribute to the success of LILIPOUPOLIS?
Lilipoupoli was the fruit of the unique creative freedom concept that characterised the period of the Third Radio Programme of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) under the direction of Manos Hadjidakis. Certainly, the refreshing post-dictatorial wind that blew at that time played an important role. The creative team of Lilipoupoli worked with imagination, spontaneity and without treating children like underdeveloped adults. Of course, we couldn’t predict back then that the radio show’s songs would travel through three generations and would reach our time fresh and alive through recordings, publications and concerts. Despite the reactions we worked uncensored in a state media by following Hadjidakis' wise instructions. "You are in a public station. You will set the limits yourselves with responsibility and a sense of freedom”.
In 2015 LILIPOUPOLIS made a come-back, in the form of a spectacular show at the National Theatre of Greece. Did it have the response you expected from children as well as adults, or was it addressed to an audience over-satiated with shows, technological and artistic experiences and therefore harder to satisfy?
Indeed, the National Theatre proposed to Regina Kapetanaki, who together with Eleni Vlachou had conceived the original idea for Lillipoupolis, to write and direct a new Lilipepolis which I would compose the music for. The decision to transfer a particular radio world to the stage with a challenging, multidimensional performance for which even the songs were newly recorded was a subtle issue, a sensitive initiative. It was a great pleasure to us when we saw tens of thousands of children attend the STAR OF LILIPOUPOLIS show, actively participate and enjoy the new messages of the ever-young Lillipoupolis that sensitised them on Environment and Nature issues.
The cultural project GEFYRES (BRIDGES CYCLE) completed 20 years of life in 2017. What was the purpose of its creation? How has it evolved with concern to its content over the years? To what extend did it achieve its goals?
BRIDGES project, which now goes on for its 21st year, has highlighted the Athens Concert Hall /Megaron’s pluralistic and integrated approach to Music. The so-called "classical" music of course has a major and particular weight, but BRIDGES along with other similar projects such as the Megaron Underground have shown that the the Athens Concert Hall can be both classical and also pioneering and it can approach fearlessly all the quality music genres but also the relationship of Music with other Arts.
BRIDGES CYCLE has managed to contribute in its way to the renewal and expansion of the Megaron's audience and especially to the attraction of young people.
More than 20 years later, how does the audience -especially the young- respond to the multifaceted musical landscape unfolding through the BRIDGES?
One of the most important contributions of BRIDGES project was attractiong a young audience to which a wide range of events, jazz, ethnic, electronic, house, rock, multi-artistic performances and special projects were offered, connecting symphonic music with quality projects very popular and appealing to young people.
What are your expectations and your vision for BRIDGES in the future? What else would you like for this programme to offer? How, in your opinion, have BRIDGES contributed over the years to changing the character of the ATHENS CONCERT HALL (MEGARON) and the public's view of it?
Great tributes with the participation of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Dee Dee Bridgewater; musical tributes to the music of Greece from Crete and the Ionian Islands; live music and cinema with the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Athens State and Radio Symphony Orchestras; special tributes to Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Queen; music and Science in special programmes in collaboration with the Planetarium.
These are just a handful of the previous BRIDGES programmes that contributed to shaping the image of the Megaron along with all other initiatives. They have proved that Megaron is not just a luxurious building of exquisite aesthetic, which is often unfairly identified as an elitist venue, but a familiar, hospitable, warm venue, with many hidden and unexploited spaces apart from the renowned excellent auditoriums. Megaron is a place offering quality performances for a public with no age, social or cultural restrictions.
Dimitris Marangopoulos at the Westminster Abbey
Part of the BRIDGES project is also the "Audiovisual Arts Festival" that is hosted by the ATHENS CONCERT HALL (MEGARON). In addition, the “Open Platforms” and the "Cinema Music Competition" continue to take place in MEGARON, giving step to young artists and enhancing modern creative initiatives. Please tell us a few words about each of these projects.
We launched a project last year in collaboration with the Ionian University in the Audiovisual Arts area bringing the cutting edge of Audio and Video technology to the Athens Concert Hall/Megaron. Three-dimensional projections, projection mapping, installations, lectures, workshops, mixed multi-artistic performances. Last year's success led us to collaborate with the highly successful Athens Digital Arts Festival, which is inspired and coordinated by Elias Hadjichristodoulou. As part of the project, a vast array of modern audiovisual technology -with live satellite links, applications, performances, lectures- was displayed in many Megaron venues, during a four-day event attended by more than 15,000 people.
OPEN PLATFORMS is a successful project including live auditions of classical music, jazz, ethnic and rock bands from all over Greece. The conductor Miltos Logiadis as the Artistic Director of Megaron, pianist Thanasis Apostolopoulos as the Deputy Artistic Director and myself as a composer and head of the BRIDGES CYCLE, we form a committee that has the chance to come into contact with an exceptional and unknown musical potential and integrate several of these groups into the official annual programme.
Finally, the International Animated Film Music Competition that was launched last year has attracted the interest of more than 130 participants from all over the world. It will continue in the future and it will be enhanced with an international music contest for video games.
How much has the financial crisis affected music industry and especially classical music sector in Greece, both with respect to professional musicians and those who want to pursue studies in classical music? Is there a migration wave of Greek musicians looking for a career abroad (musical brain drain)?
The economic crisis has mainly affected, as expected, the funding of institutions that used to be supported mainly by the state and sponsors. At this point it is worth noting that the Athens Concert Hall tries to do its best by hiring its excellent venues for international conferences and, of course, relies on revenue from tickets and sponsorships. Interestingly, though, the crisis has not affected the public. In my opinion the crisis has stimulated a reaction of rediscovering the arts which, thanks also to the reductions of the tickets prices, has increased sales.
With regards to the wave of "immigration" with the purpose of studying, I would say that it has not increased. The musical departments of the Universities at undergraduate and postgraduate level have provided a reliable and cost-effective solution for many students.
In times of economic scarcity, culture is the first to be hit, as it is considered to be a luxury for many people. On the other hand, we observe in Greece a spectacular increase of cultural institutions (Onassis Cultural Centre, Theocharakis Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation). Would you think that the audience's interest in art and music has increased, or does art still remain an affair for the affluent, while the general public still sees art as a luxury?
The existence of so many entities can be viewed positively. Here the law of the market dominates. Competition, mobility, high standards have incited an audience and have created an unexpected public’s closeness to culture.
I wouldn’t say that the general public sees art as a luxury. Our task is to enrich this audience’s life with arts of the highest possible quality by abolishing different kinds of economic, cultural, age and social barriers that have prevented it from acquainting them and enjoying them.
Do you believe that currently classical music in Greece can ensure a financially satisfying profession or is it better to remain just a hobby? Which are the relevant conditions abroad?
At a professional level, even though there are career opportunities in Greece, many young people pursue professional opportunities abroad. But this is not to be considered as negative. In modern globalised society, mobility is a two-way procedure and gives prospects to worthy musicians.
Classical music is always an excellent choice. But a young person needs to know that apart from talent, it requires devotion, study and perseverance to reach the limits of passion, imagination and extroversion.
Through your experience over the years as a professor and artistic manager of the BRIDGES project, how would you assess our country's musical potential and what are your views on music education in Greece?
Our country's musical potential has improved considerably. That is why we have an obligation to open up areas for action and development for them.
What are your next cultural plans in Greece and abroad?
Read also via Greek News Agenda: Composer Minas Borboudakis on his work in 21st-century classical music; Conductor Markellos Chryssicos on Baroque music and its dialogue with the Greek tradition; Athens Digital Arts Festival 2018: Singularity Now
N.M. (Intro photo ©G. Kanellopoulos)
Dimitris Tsalapatis was born in Athens and studied film making at Lykourgos Stavrakos School and Mathematics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He is currently studying for his Master’s in Filmmaking at Goldsmiths University of London. “Torpor” (2018), his first film, will premiere at the 41st National Short Film Festival in Drama, while it will also be screened at 24th Athens Opening Nights and the Linz International Short Film Festival.
“Torpor” describes the emotional state of Alexandros, a young man who sleepwalks at night. In a way, he also sleepwalks during the day, as he suffocates in his working class, xenophobic environment that pushes him to grow up and “become a man”. Alexandros is caught in inertia, passive and unwilling to react, but he will soon have to choose sides. Tsalapatis talks to Greek News Agenda* about “Torpor”, stressing that he is interested in exploring the archetypal conflict between father and son and the forms of rebellion in which this conflict can evolve. He adds that “Torpor” also talks about a social coming-of-age, focusing on the pressure that men feel to enact models of masculinity.
Konstantinos Georgopoulos, "Torpor" (2018)
What prompted you to make this film?
"Torpor"is my graduation film project and my first attempt to tell a story through film. As such, I wanted to begin with an issue I considered intimate, not so much from the point of view of experience, but in dealing with various aspects of its subject matter: the archetypal relationship - a son's conflict with his father and his rebellion as an inevitable development with the various directions it could take.
Simos Kakalas, "Torpor" (2018)
What challenges are there in the process of adulthood and what role do the social and economic framework play?
The film in a way deals with a kind of "social maturity," in the sense that a subject is called upon to conform to imposed social standards, in our case to models of masculinity, male-protectors of either family, home, neighborhood or the “weaker sex”. It is a process that is also experienced by the two central characters of the film, each one of course in his own way.
Konstantinos Georgopoulos, "Torpor" (2018)
Your main character in the movie sleepwalks between neglect and mistreatment. What does he stand for?
He is a character who experiences a situation, perceives it but does not act - or at least does not act consciously. He passively accepts on a daily basis various forms of violence without responding and just withdraws occasionally to the safety of his teen-room (and his laptop), or to his close friendly environment. The body of our central character, through sleepwalking, becomes autonomous and makes choices for him, warns and stands witness to situations that our hero ignores or prefers to ignore. At the same time, sleepwalking, as a sleep disorder rare for the hero's age, is an unconscious attempt to return to childhood and innocence.
Konstantinos Georgopoulos, Vassia Christou, "Torpor" (2018)
What was the process of financing the film and what difficulties could it generate for a young filmmaker?
Generally speaking, sources of public funding in Greece are extremely limited. I was lucky as the original script on which the film was based was selected by ERT's (Greek Public Broadcaster) Microfilm 2017, a program helping new filmmakers make their first films, secure funding, contributing also on either advisory or artistic levels .
* Interview by Florentia Kiortsi, translation by Magda Hatzopoulos