SIGHT: Anthony Gormley on Delos

In the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, near the famous island of Mykonos, a small, uninhabited island rises out of the turquoise sea. This is Delos, barely 5km long by 1.5km wide, treeless and bare, and so small that in the heat of summer it almost vanishes in the haze. Amazingly, it is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece.

 

It was on this island that, according to myth, Apollo, the god of light, and his twin sister Artemis, the moon goddess, were born. And it was here that, in the 9th century BC, one of the greatest sanctuaries evolved. Later still, the Cycladic island became a commercial centre, teeming with merchants and slaves.

Because the island is frequented only by archaeologists and guards, the magnificent ruins have not had to bear the brunt of millions of visitors’ feet. This summer, this idyllic site has become the setting for an ambitious and exciting project, connecting the ancient with the contemporary. Besides the Greek authorities, the main players in this experiment are NEON, a nonprofit organization that works to bring contemporary culture closer to the public, and the British sculptor Sir Anthony Gormley.

 

 

Anthony Gormley, born in 1950, has won the Turner prize amongst many other awards, and is best know for his statue Angel of the North.

For Delos, the artist created 29 iron “bodyforms”, several cast from his own body, that are the first artworks to be installed on Delos since the outpost was inhabited more than 5,000 years ago.

 

 

 

One of these sculptures  greets visitors before they even alight from the ferries that shuttle daily from Mykonos—a lone, eerie figure, standing on a rock at the water’s edge, gazing at the horizon.

 

 

 

I hope I can manage to visit the installation sometime this summer but, since I cannot yet report on it personally, I include a small extract from the NEON catalogue:

Two more works from the same series – also looking towards the distant horizon – stand on Plakes Peak and on Mount Kynthos, and another similar work stands in the waters of the harbour. Further sculptures are integrated with archaeological sites across the island, from the Stadium to the Τheatre district and from the merchant stores to the Museum site.
Visitors to Delos are invited to connect with time, space and nature, which inevitably link to our shared future.
SIGHT is organized and commissioned by NEON and presented in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades.’

 

 

 

Definitely worth a visit, if anyone is near the area.

Photos: Google

The Greek Freak wins again

For those of you who read my post, From Sepolia to the NBA (here), the Greek basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo has won NBA Most Valuable Player of 2019. Someone whose parents were Nigerian immigrants and who, as a child, helped his family out by hawking stuff on street corners, has gone from strength to strength through talent, willpower and hard work. At the age of 24, he helped his team, the Milwaukee Bucks, win 60 games this season. He is the second Bucks player, after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to win this supreme accolade, and only the third non-American to do so. Watch his emotional acceptance speech below.

 

 

 

Giannis is hugely popular in Greece, where fans stay up at night to watch his matches from across the world. He is proudly referred to as Greek in the press, and has represented his country on several occasions. He is constantly lauding Greece and saying how grateful he is for the chances he got, although he did not get official papers until he was 18. It makes you wonder, what would have become of him, if he’d been stuck in one of those infamous refugee camps…

Athens Open Air Film Festival

When we were kids, we couldn’t wait for summer to come so we could frequent the local θερινό, or open air cinema. We were allowed to go on our bikes, we bought paper cones of passatembos (pumpkin seeds) to munch on, and watched old movies—faded Louis de Funés  comedies, old Greek films in black and white—while sitting on rickety canvas chairs, surrounded by jasmin and bougainvillea. If our parents came along, we could hope for ice cream or a late dinner of souvlakia (kebabs) at the neighborhood taverna.

Nowadays, this summer outing is as popular as ever, but with added levels of comfort. Better chairs, little tables where you can set your drink, a proper canteen dispensing cold beer and soft drinks, popcorn, nachos, hot dogs and the like. And all the latest films.

 

AOAFF20 Romaiki Agora / Thalia Galanopoulou

 

Not many countries have open air cinemas, either because the weather cannot be relied upon, or because it doesn’t get dark until too late. In Greece, there’s one in most neighborhoods (islands included) with an affordable ticket price. As an activity for a warm summer’s night, it doesn’t get much better than this.

For the past nine years, Athens has gone one better, and organizes an Open Air Film Festival, that aims to link the discovery of films with that of different, possibly unknown, corners of the city. Big screens are erected in well known locations as well as unexpected places in the urban landscape, such as archaeological sites, squares, parks and pedestrian areas. The list of films includes timeless classics, indies and blockbusters, but there will also be concerts, short film premieres and other events.

 

 

The festival is aimed at both locals and tourists, and the events are free of charge. This year it started on June 5th with a screening of Fellini’s AMARCORD at the Roman Agora, and will end on August 28 with Terry Gillian’s BRAZIL at the Kolonos Theatre. For those of you in Greece, the program can easily be found online. Enjoy!

 

A Greek filmmaker wins at Cannes

At the Cannes Festival on Saturday, Greek filmmaker Vasilis Kekatos won the Palme d’Or for the best short film with “The Distance Between Heaven and Us.”
He is the first Greek director to ever win a Palme d’Or in this category.
The film was selected out of a short list of 11, from 4.240 worldwide submissions for the coveted prize. It is about two strangers meeting late at night in a deserted gas station on the old Greek National Road. One has stopped to fill up his motorbike, while the other is stranded there, lacking the 22.50 euros he needs to get home. A sum that equals the distance separating them from the sky.

 

 

Born on the island of Kefalonia in 1991, Vasilis Kekatos is a graduate student of the film department of Brunel University’s School of Arts, in London.
In 2016, he won Sundance Ignite “What’s Next?” Short Film Challenge and received a mentorship from Sundance Institute, with his short “Zero Star Hotel.”
In 2017, he participated in Euro Connection in Clermont-Ferrand ISFF, as well as in Nisi Masa ESP, with the script of his short, “The Silence of the Dying Fish.”
“The Distance Between Heaven and Us” had its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival 2018. It has also been selected in other international film festivals, such as ZINEBI and Aix-En-Provence, and has won several awards.

 

 

Kekatos got his inspiration for the film on a road trip he took in America, when he went to attend the Sundance Festival. The endless highways, the gas stations in the middle of nowhere, made an ‘almost metaphysical’ impression upon him. Looking to the future, he feels he’s ready to tackle full length films now, although he’s still only 28. The Palme D’or has given him the confidence to do so. You can watch a trailer here

I.M.Pei dies

The most widely known of architect I. M. Pei’s designs has to be the metal-and glass pyramid dominating the main courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris. When completed in 1989 it was widely criticized, but today it is as much a symbol and an icon as the Eiffel Tower.

 

 

I. M. Pei has died, aged 102. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential architects of all times, and during his career won nearly every major award in his field.

 

(Photo by Michael N. Todaro/FilmMagic)

 

I.M. Pei was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1917 to a banker father and artistic mother. He grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai before moving to the United States at age 17 to enroll in architecture school. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pei attended Harvard’s famed Graduate School of Design, where he studied with Bauhaus master Walter Gropius.

Pei loved to research his projects thoroughly, and to allow himself the freedom to experiment with different ideas and materials. He did not like his work to be stylistically ‘stamped’, although he did focus on simplicity, transparency, geometry and light.

 

The Bank of China Tower in Central Hong Kong.. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)

 

Even after retiring from his full-time architectural practice, Pei continued to work into his 80s, creating some of his most memorable projects in that time, such as the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, below, which was completed in 2008.

 

Via his spectacular buildings, he leaves behind a rich legacy in modern design.

 

Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern

Dorothea Tanning said, ‘Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity.’
I watched a video of her, in late middle age. She wore a skirt and heels, had an apron tied about her waist, and could have been preparing dinner for friends. But she was not, she was putting bold strokes of black paint onto a canvas twice as tall as herself and as wide as her studio wall. She was a comfortable shape, and had a comfortable, smiling face. You can tell she’s enjoying herself. Later, she’s sewing some pink material to make one of her crazy soft sculptures. Her hands are freckled, she pushes the stuffing about. Then she shoves a bunch of the sculptures down the stairs, her little Lhasa Apso dogs running around, yapping.

 

 

Dorothea Tanning’s husband was the surrealist artist Max Ernst. She met him as a young woman in Paris, when he was still married to Peggy Guggenheim and was selecting work for the ‘Exhibition by 31 Women’. She had left her native Galesburg, Illinois, where ‘nothing happens but the wallpaper,’ to study art briefly in Chicago, then work as an illustrator in New York. Here, the exhibition ‘Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism’ at the Museum of Modern Art inspired to travel to France to meet the surrealists.

Below is her self-portrait entitled ‘Birthday’, which is the work that put her on the art scene.

 

 

Tanning wanted to depict ‘unknown but knowable states’: to suggest there was more to life than meets the eye. Her paintings combine the familiar with the strange, exploring desire and sexuality. They are bursting with incongruous, amusing detail, such as little dogs based on the Lhasa Apso belonging to her husband, with his moustache, bulging eyes and sometimes human face. The painting below is entitled ‘Motherhood.’

 

 

One of my favorite  works is the one entitled ‘Portrait de famille.’ The ghostly, looming presence of the father, the spoilt, entitled daughter, the maid who is at the same level as the dog. It unsettles the viewer while making him smile.

 

 

Tanning and Max Ernst married in 1946 and moved to Sedona, Arizona, where he built a house with his own hands. Surrounded by lizards, scorpions and snakes, Tanning described Arizona as a ‘landscape of wild fantasy’. They were visited by many artists including Marcel Duchamp, poet Dylan Thomas and photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1957, Tanning and Ernst moved permanently to the south of France.

 

 

 

 

Around 1955 Tanning’s style changed from meticulously rendered figurative dreamscapes, to more abstract shapes where, however, the human figure could still be discerned, within a confident gestural flow and movement. And in the late 1960s, in yet another shift of direction, she started making her weird soft sculptures, using fabrics sourced in junk shops and her old Singer sewing machine.

 

 

In 1976 Ernst died and Tanning was bereft. She gradually moved back to New York and turned to writing, publishing two memoirs, two books of poetry, and a novel. She died at the age of 101, the year her last collection of poems, Coming to That, was published.

 

“Living is so amusing” Dorothea Tanning

 

 

 

Tate Modern has put on the first large-scale exhibition of Dorothea Tanning’s work for 25 years: ‘It brings together 100 works from her seven-decade career – from enigmatic paintings to uncanny sculptures.’ The exhibition is on until June 9, don’t miss it if you’re anywhere near.

Bouboulina, a Greek heroine

Each year on March 25th, Greeks celebrate the Greek War Of Independence of 1821, against the Ottoman Empire (I have posted about this, here). Slightly belatedly, both for that date as well as for International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write about the fascinating life of one of the heroes of this struggle, Lascarina Pinotsis, known as Bouboulina (11 May 1771 – 22 May 1825), a Greek naval commander.

Bouboulina was born in a prison in Constantinople, since her father, Stavrianos Pinotsis, a Captain from Hydra, had been imprisoned by the Ottomans for his part in the failed Orlof Revolution of 1769–1770 against Ottoman rule. Her father died soon after her birth and the mother and child returned to Hydra. They moved to the island of Spetses four years later when her mother married Dimitrios Lazarou-Orlof.

Laskarina had eight half-siblings and when she grew up, she married in a second marriage the wealthy shipowner and captain Dimitrios Bouboulis, taking his surname. When she was 40 years old,  Bouboulis was killed in battle against Algerian pirates, and Bouboulina, as she came to be known, took over his fortune and his trading business and had ships built at her own expense, including the large warship Agamemnon.

When, in 1816, the Ottomans tried to confiscate Bouboulina’s property because her husband had fought for the Russians against them, she sailed to Constantinople to seek Russian protection. Ambassador Stroganov, in recognition of her husband’s service to the Russians, sent her to safety in the Crimea, but, after three months, she returned to Spetses. Construction of the ship Agamemnon was finished in 1820. Bouboulina bribed Turkish officials to ignore the ship’s size and it became one of the largest warships in the hands of Greek rebels. She also organized her own armed troops, composed of men from Spetses.

Allegedly Bouboulina joined the Filiki Etaireia, an underground organization that was preparing Greece for revolution against Ottoman rule, although she is not named in historical member’s lists. She bought arms and ammunition at her own expense, to fight “for the sake of my nation.” She used most of her fortune to provide food and ammunition for the sailors and soldiers under her command.

 

 

On 13 March 1821 Bouboulina raised on the mast of Agamemnon her own Greek flag, and sailed with eight ships to Nafplion where she began a naval blockade. Later she took part in the naval blockade and capture of Monemvasia and Pylos.

She arrived at Tripolis in time to witness its fall on 11 September 1821 and to meet general Theodoros Kolokotronis. Her daughter Eleni Boubouli later married Panos Kolokotronis, the son of Theodoros. During the ensuing defeat of the Ottoman garrison, Bouboulina saved most of the female members of the sultan’s household. When the opposing factions erupted into civil war in 1824, the Greek government arrested Bouboulina for her family connection with Kolokotronis; her son-in-law was killed during the events. Eventually she was exiled back to Spetses, having spent most of her fortune for the war of independence.

After all the danger and the adventures, Laskarina Bouboulina was killed in 1825 as the result of a family feud in Spetses, when somebody shot at her during an argument. After her death, Emperor Alexander I of Russia granted Bouboulina the honorary rank of Admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy, making her the first woman in world naval history to hold this title. Her descendants sold the ship Agamemnon to the Greek state, which renamed it Spetsai, but sadly it was burned during the next Greek civil war in 1831.

On the island of Spetses the “Bouboulina Museum” is housed in the 300-year-old mansion of Bouboulina’s second husband Bouboulis, where her descendants still live. Her statue stands in the harbor in Spetses. Various streets all over Greece and Cyprus are named in her honor, and she was depicted on the reverse of both the Greek 50 drachmae banknote of 1978 and the Greek 1 drachma coin of 1988-2001.

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