*Emilios Harbis, “Athens Biennale, a social CERN at Omonoia”, Kathimerini Newspaper, 19 (November 2015), p.13
A total of 3,500 visitors attended the opening events and actions of the Athens Biennale 2015-2017 “OMONOIA” between the 18th and the 28th of November 2015, corroborating the need for developing alliances and collaborations. In the area around Omonoia Square, with the historic Bageion Hotel as the focal point, 85 Greek and foreign artists presented over 40 actions which involved the public in an unprecedented creative fusion.
The Athens Biennale’s invitation to a collective factory of ideas, a social accelerator amidst a vertiginously spinning city, found positive response in dozens of extensive reports in the Greek and foreign Press (Frieze, FlashArt, ArtForum, Latitudes).
The international congress Synapse 1: Introducing a laboratory for production post-2011was held to a full house at the National Theatre’s New Rex, where the audience followed closely the 32 participants (of whom 24 came to Athens from abroad) as they explored issues such as the Commons, urban welfare, cooperativism and asked themselves how art and cultural institutions can contribute to this time of radical change.
This was followed by open meetings of the conferees (directors of European cultural institutions, academics, curators, activists) and the “inhabitants” of Bageion (artists and groups that are self-organised in Athens today) which demonstrated the currency of the idea of the Athens Biennale as a field for experimentation with practices of economic solidarity and grassroots democracy.
Participants and the public alike stressed the need to find ways for art and cultural institutions to contribute to this time of radical change; to review their established institutional structure with a view to building new forms of artistic production based on dialogue and with the emphasis on process.
The historic Bageion Hotel of Omonoia Square was re-inhabited and became, within days, the new destination in the city. Countless photos of the building, as it was illuminated after dark were posted in the social media.
Fourteen of its rooms were “inhabited” by groups and individual artists who got acquainted among themselves and with the public, triggering a constructive dialogue. More than an excuse for meeting, talking and interacting, the concept of cohabitation at the Bageion became a constant exercise in collective thought and collective action.
This is why the “cohabitation” at the hotel continues after the end of the November events. For two days every week the venue remains open to the participant artists, the groups (which arenow ten: Avtonomi Akadimia, Campus Novel, Depression Era, The Contemporary Greek Art Institute (iset), Fanis Kafantaris (Speleo-/Σπήλαιο-), Playroom, State of Concept, UrbanDig Project, 3 137, Citizens of Mets Initiative) and the independent, non-profit art spaces with which the Athens Biennale joins forces and shares its venues and facilities for the next two years.
Stay tuned, since the groups and individual artists that currently working at Bageion will soon invite us to their new circle of activities. Meanwhile, Synapse 2 is already in the process of preparation for the spring of 2016!