In the heart of the heart of another country*
In December 2015, ArtBOX organised a conference and two workshops focusing on art for social change and its role towards sustainable growth for cities in partnership with the project LABattoir of the Municipality of Thessaloniki for the city's Old Slaughterhouse building.
In June 2016, in response to current circumstances, the collaborative project "In the heart of the heart of another country" tackles the issue of crises from a different, more «tangible», urgent perspective: The event - comprising a conference, a workshop and screenings - aimed to open up multiple discussions about the situation in Syria and the political and socio-economic crisis in Greece and Lebanon. The project promted discussions on the ways people resist, develop resilient strategies and on the influence of refugees on culture as well as on artistic and activist practices in these countries.
In Thessaloniki, the programme included screenings of fiction documentaries and documentaries by Greek and Syrian filmmakers, highlighting the current situation and promoting ways of resistance. Within a workshop, 20 participants from artistic, scientific, political background were encouraged to share their personal experiences towards these complex and very existential crises.
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The Workshop, titled «Approaches of Displacement» focused on different narratives of crisis, migration and exile. The invited speakers briefly shared their own stories and then opened the floor to the audience. Delphine Leccas - curator and co-founder of AIN, France-Lebanon-Syria - described her experience from her life in Syria, where she lived and worked for 5 years before moving to Lebanon, once the war broke. Delphine’s aim is to promote the work of artists from the region and to share their stories with the world, breaking the stereotypical image of the refugee.
Sofia Grigoriadou and Io Myrto Chaviara - both artists and co-founders of TwixtLab based in Athens - spoke about their practice-based research bridging contemporary art, anthropology and social reality, in order to explore crisis-born changes and practices in public spaces around Athens. Sofia also spoke about her research on the different approaches to people’s displacement and how these are portrayed by artists and the media.
Eleni Hodolidou - Associate Professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki - referred to her work as Coordinator of the programme for educational intervention for the refugee camps in Diavata and the Port of Thessaloniki. Finally, Andreas Takis - Assistant Professor in Philosophy & Methodology of Law, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and President of the State Museum of Contemporary Art - spoke about our changing perception of the refugees and the possibilities of their integration in their new countries as part of a democratic process.
The screenings featured short video art films, fiction documentaries and documentaries on a variety of subjects related to the effects of war and crisis on the lives of individuals and societies. The attempt of a poetic documentation of the homely space in a devastated land, the viewing of a public protest through the format of a TV screen, the suspended lives of immigrants in one of Greece’s port-cities - escape routes to the West, the road trip to a land of hope that seems that will never be completed and a gaze through the keyhole of the Syrian army are some of the shared stories that conveyed varied approaches to the issue of displacement.
The events aimed at understanding different facets of the situation, cultivate empathy and promote solutions based on solidarity. Beyond politics and regulations, humanitarian support and solidarity from one individual to another is not a point to be disregarded.
"In the heart of the heart of another country" is a collaborative project organised by AIN (France-Syria-Lebanon), Mansion (Beirut) and TWIXTlab (Athens). The projects' general topic is the current situation in Syria, Greece and Lebanon, that is dealt with through a series of films, documentaries, talks and exhibitions in Thessaloniki, Athens and Beirut. Its presentation in Thessaloniki at the 15th of June 2016 is part of the REALISE-project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, coordinated by ARTBOX and realized in cooperation with Goethe-Insitut Thessaloniki and the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography.
* The title is borrowed from Etel Adnan’s poetry book of the same title, published in 2005. Adnan is an accomplished Lebanese-American poet, essayist and visual artist, whose work has never shied away from facing up to the tragedies of modern history. Born in 1925, Adnan was raised in Beirut; her mother was Greek from Smyrna and her father Syrian from Damascus. She spends her time between Paris, Beirut and California.