Understandably, many creative artists in Athens and Greece are not only dismissive of the recent ‘Athens is the new Berlin’ mantra, but also, and rightly so, many find it hugely offensive. For a city which has been continuously inhabited for the past 5,000 years as well as being continuously synonymous as a centre of cultural and artistic excellence, the recent trend to compare its attraction for artists with Berlin or New York seems typically trite in our age of digitally disposable headline bites.
People who know Athens also know that it has always been home to a healthy and vibrant art scene, throughout even the most turbulent times.
Even when its population endured the most harrowing of times in recent history, including the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in the 1920’s, WWII German occupation or the ruling Junta of the 60’s and 70’s, underground creative artists always found a means of self expression, even at the risk of exile.
As a rule of thumb, when societies face the most difficult of challenges, it generally follows that the arts emerge in their various forms with all the more glory, impact and vision.
It is therefore not in the least surprising that the current climate of economic oppression, engulfing the entire country, has led to the spotlight being trained on the arts scene in Athens.
Interviewed for Lost Athina in a video called ‘My Athina’, writer and journalist, Despina Trivolis echoes a widespread sentiment by pointing out that unfortunately there is also a distasteful side to the overall interest in the contemporary Athens arts scene.
According to Despina, many outsiders are participating in a kind of disaster porn while peering on from a comfortable distance.
She also observes that a new kind of tourism has surfaced around both the financial crisis and the art scene, which is inherently demeaning to the Greek people and the creative artists who are still living with the reality of the dire economic situation that continues in Athens and Greece.
Thankfully, by the very nature of their occupations, creative artists will tend to be the first to debunk untruths, inaccuracies, shams and in general any ideas that lack substance, relevance or guts.
So before you join in with any sound-bite mantras which attempt to rate Athens as a new contender on the art-scene block, think carefully before jumping onto the proverbial bandwagon. Enough has already been pillaged from Greece of late without any further pathetic attempts to marginalise even the name and the heritage of its capital city.
Athens is Athens. It always has been and it always will be. Incomparable Athens.