Back to Plato’s Academy, this time for an art exhibit (pt.1)

It’s been two and a half years since I last went to Akademia Platonos Park; the archaeological site, turned urban park, in the western edge of Athens, where ancient philosopher Plato and his students used to hang out. On a side note, that first post was the reason for meeting a modern day English philosopher –the first person I met through this blog! Since then, there’s been a lot of talk on upgrading this urban area - with the park used as a catalyst for the project - but the whole thing seems to be moving very, very sloooowly, if at all.
"Visual Dialogues 2012" billboard near the entrance of Academia Platonos park 
An art exhibit, titled “Visual Dialogues 2012”, was what drew me in the park this time around. Sponsored by the big funding arm of the Onassis Public Benefit Foundation and the Onassis Cultural Centre, ten artists were invited to create video installations, dispersed in the park, within ephemeral wooden structures. A virtual “dialogue” between art, archaeology and the urban environment. A way to bring more people into the park, as I see it, but also in contact with an art form that most are not familiar with. 

Wooden projection room, at Academia Platonos

You get a slightly spooky feeling when you enter these dark, unmanned, isolated structures in the middle of the park but the presence of exhibit staff around the area is reassuring. Inside each one, runs the projection of a short, digital film in a continuous loop from noon till 6:00pm. Among the ten short films, the one that clearly stood out for me was that by Katerina Athanasopoulou - the first as you enter the park. Making reference to Plato’s work (Plato was the one who preserved Socrates’ teaching for the world to read), the video’s brochure tells us that “Socrates compared the human soul to a cage, within which elements of knowledge fly like birds. Born with an empty ‘cage’, people gradually collect birds/knowledge as they grow up. When a piece of information / knowledge is needed, humans try to recollect it ‘with their hand’, but sometimes they pick the wrong one. Furthermore, ornithologists have observed a pattern of restless anticipation in birds before the time of migration, both in free and in captive birds.” 

Apodemia, by Katerina Athanasopoulou

Apodemia, by Katerina Athanasopoulou

Combining the above concepts and images, the short film named “Apodemia” (which rimes with "Academia" and stands for "Emigration" in Greek), ) presents a flock of birds encircling an empty cage-bus which runs around the deserted streets of a vast city, half-built, with huge granite hands trying to alter its course but also catch the birds/knowledge. The haunting music by Jon Opstad and Clare Wheeler’s violin playing only add to the whole effect.

Symposium, by Maria Paschalidou
Other videos that spoke to me were the ones by Maria Paschalidou (Symposium: a reference to a local citizens group with an indirect reference to xenophobia, also using Albert Camus’ “The Stranger”), Maria Zervos (Nomadology: The Route), Myrto Vounatsou and Stelios Dexis (The Wave: a dual screen projection imparting a vague sense of fear and anxiety to its viewers) and Petros Touloudis (Via Recta: the breathless presentation of a hectic, fuzzy mountain/rock-climbing trip).

The Wave, by Myrto Vounatsou and Stelios Dexis

Entrance: Kratylou St.& Tripoleos St.
Transit: Bus 051 from Zenonos St., near Omonia Square (see map in previous post)
Admission: Free
Hours: Daily from 12:00 to 18:00 (arrive at 17:00 at the latest to be able to get a glimpse of most videos and the park). Running till February 10, 2013.

There was more to this visit but you'll have to wait for part 2...

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