Striking and beautiful title for the foreword note of the artistic director and president of the Athens Festival 2011, Yorgos Loukos. I read these words and then, I read the programme and then I try to understand. I thought the words would announce something else. But they do not.
It is striking that in these “difficult” (the word is weak) times in the history of Greece, people can still “organise” art, put up large scale events and festivals, invite – and pay? performances coming from abroad. When you know that some greek theatres, greek companies have not received any subsidy from the Ministry of Culture since a loooong time, when you know that it is getting difficult to get any money for any project, isn´t it a little strange and even indecent to have such grand names and such an “elite” programme in 2011 in the Athens festival?
I know life does not stop because a country is declared by eurocrats as “bankrupt” and by the way, who is the country and who are the eurocrats? I know people continue to go out and enjoy and spend money and drink endless “frappe coffees” and smoke their cigarettes! Life goes on! And art as well. And this is wonderful news. It does give hope and it seems people are “organizing pessimism” in their own way. But sometimes I stop and think to myself – how is this possible? I do think – even if again I can be criticized for this and judged as politically incorrect : is this really necessary? Don´t misunderstand me: I do think art is absolutely necessary – and at all times. But maybe it would have been thoughtful, interesting, intriguing, educational (?) and sincerely more striking to give out other options, at least THIS TIME. This time when people are talking about “war”, feel at “war”, some speaking of harder scenario-versions like “the junta” coming back. Yes, if I was the artistic director of the Athens festival, I would do other choices. More radical ones. I am probably an anarchist, an idealist but I would bring up radical change and show something else, something more subversive, for sure some obvious “cheaper” options and curate events, bring ideas and performances which would break the tradition of the expensive, big names, luxurious theatre companies. I would definitely go for the upcoming generation of greek artists and “distribute” the budget if I had it – whatever it was – to the creative forces of the country.
But what do I know? Sometimes I feel criticism is so easy….
Sometimes I am very greek, sometimes I really feel alienated from this country.
When we sat down to plan the 2011 Festival on paper, it quickly became clear we had another difficult year ahead of us. The third year of a profound crisis that has shown no signs of letting up; which extends beyond the economic to society, aesthetics and human relations; which has confronted contemporary Greece – and we are not alone – with a crisis of identity and orientation. What part can art and culture play when you’re walking the tightrope of circumstance? What can you look ahead to, how optimistic can you be?
Chairman and Artistic Director