Since 2000, Athens has been through many significant urban transformations that have affected the way it is perceived and represented. Acknowledging these transitions, this book investigates how the Greek capital has been compared to a ‘collage’ in terms of the relation between its urban fragmentation and the subjective experience of the individual, and examines the ways in which artists and architects have used the technique of collage to represent this urban dimension. A historical overview that compares urban studies with the production of images is conducted throughout three periods: the diffusion of realism as a new approach to look at the city during the economic growth trigged by the Olympic Games (2000-2008); the large production of urban proposals to face the difficult circumstances produced by the economic crisis (2008-2015); and the intellectual autonomy of collage to contest the status quo during the period of the austerity and economic recovery (2015-2020). The book aims to establish an alternative representation of the city that contests the official narrations built over the legacy of the Antiquity, the nostalgia for the city of the past and the city of the polykatoikia. It also seeks to overcome the usual construction practices that have been implemented to build the city until today, envisioning more radical, creative and contextualized strategies. Athens is thus presented like a city characterized by heterogeneity, relativism and plurality.
Cover Flying Humans in Athens / Downtown Version, Aristide Antonas, 2013
ATHENS BY COLLAGE The Representation of the Metropolis between Realism, Intervention and Autonomy
With forewords by Nikos Kazeros and afterwords by Davide Tommaso Ferrando
Fabiano Micocci Athens by Collage I edition ISBN 978-88-32050-54-7 Edited by Stefanie Leontiadis Design by Margherita Ferrari Publisher Anteferma Edizioni S.r.l. via Asolo 12, Conegliano, TV firstname.lastname@example.org
This book is published under a Creative Commons license Attribution - NonCommercial - Share Alike 4.0 International
To the cities I love
Table of contents
Forewords by Nikos Kazeros
The Representation of the Metropolis Athens and Collage Realism (2000-2008) Intervention (2008-2015) Autonomy (2015-2020) The City in Permanent Construction Plates
27 33 41 48 56 62
Realism (2000-2008) Intervention (2008-2015) Autonomy (2015-2020)
70 90 140
Interviews Urban Crisis Resort with Danai Gkoni
A Magical Realist Fairy Tale
Secrets and Crises
A Disturbance of Memory
with Point Supreme
with Ifigeneia Liangi
with Zoe Hatziyannaki
with Thanassis Manis
with Beniamino Servino
with Alexandros Maganiotis
with Kostis Antoniadis
with Carmelo Baglivo
with Dimitris Tsoumplekas
with Aristide Antonas
Afterwords by Davide Tommaso Ferrando
Forewords Nikos Kazeros
We constantly ask «What is the contemporary city?» This act demonstrates a reflective approach towards the city as an essential and continuous process of seeking to understand our changing urban experience. At the same time, this implies that the urban experience is multiple, and has a historical, cultural and social field of acquisition. But, beyond that, contemporary reality has shown us, in certain cases, that the time to conceive, design, implement and operate a new city – or a rudimentary housing infrastructure – has dramatically diminished, overcoming our, up to now, organic relationship with it. Thus the original question, which is at the same time ontological, is restated as follows: «In what type of cities does it seem – or do we wish – that we live in?». While attempting an answer, we turn to the case of Athens, a city that for the past two decades has been in the throes of intense transformation. This transformation began from the pre-Olympic period when there were high expectations for the 11
city, including an effort to change its paradigm given the 2004 Olympic year, i.e. to become a real metropolis and join the network of major cities of global radiation. However, the facing of a new reality brought about a reorganization of its human geography and a change in its recruitment. The social crisis that followed turned it into an open field of claims, with the public space emerging as an important coefficient, while the prolonged economic crisis penetrated it, leaving multiple traces of marginal and inhumane conditions. In its current phase, Athens can be characterized as a protocol city, i.e. a city whose operation is defined, as a matter of priority, by strict temporal and spatial rules due to emergency health issues, therefore, limiting its qualities. The boundaries between public and private have been swept, control and surveillance have been strengthened in its territory, and a new moral habitation has been defined, highlighting individual responsibility as a dominant and necessary element of urban behavior for both residents and visitors – a moral behavior that seems to orchestrate the duration and intensity of the city’s emergency health condition. Changes in how the city is inhabited are quite obvious, with the residence no longer being an adequate shelter of protection, but rather a place of isolation and confinement, and minimization or severance of social ties and relationships. Are we parts of a new dystopian condition? Is it temporary or will it be consolidated? It is, however, a situation with strong effects on the inhabitants and the operation of the city, since it deactivates its rich background day by day, limiting its experience. A break in the shell of this emerging reality, but also an answer to the original question of this short text, can be found in the exemplary function of collage as a vehicle for the production and expression of reflections and desires regarding the city and the current situation that characterizes it. Moving in the city’s time limits from the present to its distant historical past and to its proposed future, to its natural limits, from the terrestrial relief to its coastline, from its formal to its informal areas, from 12
the densely-populated neighborhoods to its vast suburbs, from the central public spaces to the numerous private ones – the collage regenerates its experience and identifies possible ways of inhabiting it.
This book couldn’t be possible without the availability, the kindness, and the enthusiasm of all the persons that are included in this collection. Their enthusiasm to take part in this project is what makes this collection not simply a list of images, but a group of people that share their love for collage and art. And their feelings for Athens. I would like to thank all of them for the iconographic material that they courteously shared with me and for the concession of the permission to reproduce their artworks. Great appreciation goes to all of those whom I had the chance to interview, to those who invited me at their offices spending some hours discussing with me their work, to those whom I met at my office or occasionally in some café in Athens and to those who spent time answering my questions and sending material via email. Their generosity was shown through discussing, narrating their experiences and expressing their sincere ideas; all of these represent the real spirit that informs this work.
Special gratitude goes to Panos Dragonas, Platon Issaias and Panayiotis Tournikiotis, whom I had the chance to meet and discuss the many subjects that are conversed in this book beyond that of collage. In particular, with great gentleness and sincerity, they offered me a crucial overview of the urban past and present of Athens that greatly helped me better understand the complexity of this city. I need also to thank all those whose work or interviews have not been included in the final manuscripts. With deep regret, they have been excluded because the content of the book became tighter day after day, finally focusing solely on collage. Notwithstanding, their contribution has been equally fundamental in defining the final outcome. I am extremely grateful to those who patiently read the text and examined the images, providing crucial comments for the considerable improvement of the content and the focus of this research. At first, Yiorgos Tzirtzilakis provided important remarks on the relationship between art and architecture and the importance of collage as an architectural practice. He offered crucial hints about the role of collage in Greece, and he suggested some artists that I had the chance to contact and to include in this collection. Nikos Kazeros patiently read both the first and the second manuscripts, offering fundamental hints to clarify some aspects of the recent urban history of Athens and how it has been represented. Moreover, he passionately contributed in the forewords, introducing the use of collage to represent Athens in the context of urban studies. Luca Garofalo, whose work on collage and montage has been of great inspiration, accurately revised the final manuscripts and contributed with fruitful and precise comments concerning the international panorama of architectural collage. Aristide Antonas, who read the final version of the essay, offered fundamental comments focusing on expressing the constitution of the city as an experience of collage beyond the literal use of collage by artists and architects. Finally, I would like to
thank Carmelo Baglivo for the discussion on the role of collage in architecture and his work during his presentation Accumulazioni/ Accumulations at the course of History and Theory of Architecture and the City that I taught at the Department of Architecture of the University of Thessaly during Spring 2020. Finally, I would like to thank Emilio Antoniol and Margherita Ferrari at Anteferma for having believed in this project since its beginning, and for their incredible and passionate work as an independent architectural publisher.
The initial idea for this book dates back in 2015 with the creation of a blog holding the title The Athens Project1. The blog published diverse and heterogeneous visual works by architects and artists who were investigating spatial and contextual urban aspects of Athens in an unconventional, unusual and personal way. Every blog post was composed of a set of images associated with a descriptive text or an interview with the author. The scope of this blog was to investigate Athens by adding one image after the other, to create a multifaceted expression of the city. 1
The first post of the blog A Survey on Contemporary Ruins: ‘Dream Abandoned’ and ‘Athens Rises’ by Jeff Vanderpool was published on February 15th, 2016, while the last one, The Many Layers of the City: Stratigraphy by Todd Lowery, was published on March 24th, 2017. The description of the research reported in the blog was: «The Athens Project is a research blog focused on Architecture and Urban Design in Athens and the Mediterranean. As epicenter of the economic crisis, Athens is thought as a platform for a renovated architecture criticism and design innovation. The Athens Project aims to open a debate about the role of architecture and urban design, in which criticality and reflexivity reconsider the exchanges between academia, context and professional practice. The Athens Project gathers together various means of talking about Architecture and the City, in form of interviews, written essays, artworks and projects with the aim to bring together practitioners and academics from architecture, planning, photography, art, engineering and arts».
This book shares with the blog the ideas of pluralism and relativism that emerge from the coming together of the many people who have witnessed the city through their art. Nevertheless, there are some crucial differences between the book and the blog that should be listed here because they help clarify the fundamental distinctiveness of this work. The first divergence with the blog concerns the content, as the pieces included in this collection have been rigorously selected only among those that seem to respect the approach and the philosophy of the artistic technique of collage. The focus on collage derives from the fact that this is a technique that, since the beginning of the 20th Century, has been adopted to better capture the spirit of cities thanks to its strong literary and visual expressiveness, becoming trendy in the post-digital era. The second difference concerns the structure of the content. Here, texts and images have been disjointed and then grouped in three distinct parts, to stress the centrality and autonomy of the images over the texts. The first part presents the essay Athenian Imaginaries that investigates the history of the representation of Athens through collage and its alternating fortunes. The text advances the existence of a possible relation between how the city has been read during the period of the many urban transformations that have occurred in the Greek capital city since the 2000s and the diffusion of the use of collage among architects and also artists, to adequately represent this new glance. The second and central part of this publication includes the whole catalogue of collaged images that represent Athens. Athens by Collage brings together many Greek and international architects and artists who hold in common their interest in the art of collage, both analogue and digital, but also in photomontage, montage and assemblage. The artworks included here have been selected using some very specific criteria: they embed typical architectural, material and historical references that belong to Athens; they present a spatial depth that re-constructs – and of-
ten de-constructs – the urban spatiality of Athens; they portray imagined landscapes that have some strong association to the specific reality of the city. Although they represent works of a variety of techniques, all images depict a very pictorial character as they portray the Athenian cityscape and the skyline. The third part collects interviews with some of the creators of the artworks that are included in the catalogue. In these interviews, the authors clarify how their work has been influenced by Athens and the types of illustrative techniques that they use through their creative process. Within this dialogue, they also confess their feelings for the city. The interviews present partial and subjective points of view, but they undoubtedly contain something true in the way that they disclose and describe some specific and unique aspects of Athens. The subjectivity of the interviews couples and significantly expands, the subjective, mnemonic and poetic properties of collage art.
This essay aims to present the chronicle of the use of collage art to visually represent, narrate and imagine Athens during the first twenty years of the 21st Century. This is a very crucial period in the history of the city, not only due to global events, such as the 2004 Olympic Games and the 2008 economic and financial crisis but also due to the spread of new social and technological conditions. All these circumstances have had a significant impact on the city’s urban environment, causing some major transformations in its physical fabric along with many changes in the daily life of its inhabitants. But these events have also influenced how the city has been represented. Indeed, the image of the city has changed many times in a very short time, both in the way it has been broadcasted by local and international media – often in alliance with institutional powers – and in how it has been perceived by its inhabitants on the base of their personal experiences and individual memories1. 1
The representation of the city is manufactured by the ones that own the power, but it can be also directly linked to social groups and common habits that produce partial and heterogeneous views. Roncayolo, M. (1978). La città. Torino: Einaudi, pp. 105-121.
According to these premises, the hypothesis that will be advanced here associates two significant facts that occurred in parallel and that look fatefully intertwined. While Athens was identified in its vast and complex metropolitan dimension, a fact clearly described by many architectural publications and events, architects and artists started to work more systemically with collage to represent new urban imaginaries grounded on individual perceptions of how the city was transforming2. The relevance of the association of these two occurrences depends on the fact that, maybe, this conjunction was not fortuitous. On the contrary, it seems that the interest in collage art rose from the impatience, mainly of the young generations of architects and artists, to look for an adequate tool to confront the complex and fuzzy identity of the metropolitan city. To support the motivation behind a research that investigates the use of collage to explore the city, it is important to bring in mind the very precise goals of this art. Art curator Yuval Etgar, in the introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition The Ends of Collage, points out that collage is an ideological project with anarchic and radical connotations, that has worked, in different times and places, as a means to criticize social and political conventions and to promote revolutionary ideas3. The Scottish author Ali Smith, very effectively explains that these objectives can be easily achieved because collage is an insurgent activity that throws away all the rules simply by not respecting conventions of size, space, time, foreground and background. The main conse2 Urban imaginaries focus on how the city is imagined – the construction of mental images – simultaneously taking in consideration the material, conceptual, experienced and practiced understanding of space. At the same time, urban imagination can play a role in reconfiguring the socio-spatial politics of the city. The notion of urban imaginary is attributed to the socalled ‘spatial turn’ in humanities and social sciences. Lindner, C. and Meissner, M. (Eds.) (2019). The Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries. London: Routledge, pp. 1-7. 3 Etgar associates three meanings to the word ‘end’. The first is related to the edges of the fragments that compose a collage image, while the second implies a historical paradigm, as reality appears in the form of a collage of information and forms. These two propositions join together in the third meaning: collage is an ideological project that advances revolutionary ideas. The exhibition was hosted at the Luxembourg+Co. Gallery in London and New York in 2017. Etgar, Y. (2017). The Ends of Collage. London: Luxemburg & Dayan, p. 12.
quence of these acts is the broadening of the edges of knowledge, which can be evinced by the fact that collage makes everything that is known and familiar to look like something completely new and strange4. These two aspects that Ali Smiths brought to the fore – the disruption of the familiarity and the allure of strangeness – are also the reasons why collage has been chosen as one of the possible effective ways to represent Athens. Concerning the first issue, it is evident that collage allows for a crucial disengagement from authoritarian official narrations and the many common places spread by mainstream media and popular beliefs. In the specific case of Athens, its use encourages the departure from the persistence on the continuity with the Greek classical antiquities and the dominant auto-referential icon of the Acropolis, coupled by nostalgia for the 19th Century Neo-classical heritage of the city and the prosaic complains against the loss of Old Athens (Παλιά Αθήνα) – that is the image of the city of the past5. But collage may also be helpful to refresh the consolidated image of the contemporary city that is often perceived as a homogeneous and ugly city characterized by the repetition of multi-storey apartment buildings – the city of the polykatoikia6. 4 Ali Smith uses collage like a narrative technique in her four books about seasons (Autumn, 2016, Winter, 2017, Spring, 2019, Summer, 2020). In Autumn, one of the protagonists of the story, the old man Daniel Gluck that lives in a nursery home, declares: «Collage is an institute of education where all the rules can be thrown into the air and size and space and time and foreground and background all become relative and because of these skills everything you think you know gets made into something new and strange». Smith, A. (2016). Autumn. London: Penguin Books, p. 71. Moreover, it is significant that her short essay On Edge is included in the catalogue The Ends of Collage by Yutval Edgar. The essay is part of the collection Smith, A. (2013). Artful. London: Penguin Books. 5 Concerning the construction of Modern Athens as Capital of the New Greek State since the 19th Century there are two main references: Bastea, E. (2000). The Creation of Modern Athens. Planning the Myth. Cambridge, New York & Melbourne: Cambridge University Press; Tzoumaka, E. (2008). Πόλη και ιδεολογία. Η εικόνα της Αθήνας 1833-1949 (Eng. Trans. City and Ideology. The Image of Athens 1833-1949). Athens: Sideris. 6 The πολυκατοικία (Eng. Trans. polykatoikia) is the standard multi-storey apartment building that has developed in Greece since 1930s and largely after 1950s that characterizes the urban landscape of contemporary Greek cities. Literally, polykatoikia is a composed word that includes poly (= many) and katoikia (= dwelling). Usually considered like a product of professionalism, since the 1990s it has been largely studied and revaluated as an architectural typology. Among the many texts of this period focused on this subject, it is worth
Realism (2000-2008) Athens, 1968. Chryssa Romanos Analogue collage on canvas, 130 x 162 cm
The Canal (or Channel) of Attiki Odos on the Map of Attica, 2003. Zissis Kotionis Digital collage, Various sizes
IKEA Closet: A Bridge Building in Attiki Odos, 2004. Zissis Kotionis Digital collage, Various sizes
Future Athens, 2006. Spiros Papadopoulos Digital collage, Various sizes
Urban Crisis Resort with Danai Gkoni October 2018
You are an architect and a digital artist. When did you start to experiment with collage and how did you arrive at using collage for telling stories about Athens? My interest in constructing images began in 2009 while I was studying for my Master’s degree in Architecture at TU Delft, in the Netherlands. During that period, I was introduced to how Dutch architects work; a quite different approach than what I was used to in Greece, as they showed more interest and value in a project’s representational aspect. Following this tendency/inclination, an image should be chosen to depict the concept of a project and for that purpose, it should be attractive, not only for representing an interesting atmosphere but also for making the project appealing for purchase, similar to the logic of advertisement production. That approach was applied not only to feasible buildable projects but also to research design schemes. That time was still during the early years of digital media in architectural representation and the use of Photoshop was on fire. For an entire semester, I attended a design studio by MVRDV, who were constantly asking us to represent our concepts through sexy collages. That was the time when I started experimenting with digital collage. Ironically enough, although I found it to be a rather commercial way to do architecture, I enjoyed the process, while understanding the benefits of working this way. Collage is a very popular medium among architects, because it provides the freedom to depict an atmosphere or an intention, even if the building is not thoroughly designed and fully elaborated; even if it is a theoretical concept with blurry parts, and even if one is not particularly good at drawing or sketching. And I was not a particularly skilled design student. Following my studies, I would occasionally do collage-work for presentations in the offices I worked for in Rotterdam. At the end of 2012, I was invited to participate in an art exhibition in Athens that explored the concept of noise as an everyday disruption1. That was precisely the actual time when I started using collage representations as an artistic statement. The title of my first piece was There is no longer outside, in which Ι tried to address the concept of the infinite interior of capitalism, namely the ability of the system to assimilate and thus internalize all the disruptions and moments of resistance. 1
Mute Distortions – There is no outside was a group exhibition curated by Panagiotis Kovanis and presented at the TAF Foundation in Athens between December 2012 and January 2013. [AN]
Athens has constantly been my point of reference, as it is the city with which I find myself most connected to because I studied here. Moreover, Ι permanently live here. Added to the above, I also think that its morphology depicts – in a quite brutal but honest way – the sociopolitical transformations of the Greek State through time, which has grown to be more evident during the last decade of crisis. It was just natural to me to refer to Athens when starting to work with collages more systematically. Indeed, a large part of your work is focused on Athens during the economic crisis. Collage is a radical art because it is in rupture with the past and with other conventional methods of representation, challenging provocative, funny, ironic, or radical thinking. Has collage helped you to represent the economic crisis differently from any mainstream media? Looking at it from a distance, the original intention was not exactly to represent Athens in crisis. The work rather began as a personal encounter during a period that I was living abroad, expressing an inner controversial feeling. On one hand, I was feeling nostalgia for the city where I had spent my student years moving from a small town, which was a period of my life characterized by carelessness and fun, with new encounters and many intellectual stimuli. On the other hand, I was influenced by the economic and social crisis that was already evident in city life at that time, and by the claustrophobic feeling that one gets from the highly-dense heterogeneous Athenian urban tissue that is at the same time very rigid, very concrete. Digital collage was simply the tool I had developed to express myself artistically and during the process, I discovered that it conveyed my feelings pretty accurately. Those qualities of collage that you mention fit perfectly with the atmosphere I was aiming for in my works. What I consider quite crucial is the fact that I was an already trained architect, which was something that had sharpened my perception in a specific way. I think this is something quite obvious not only in my Athens’ collages but also in my later work as a collage illustrator. In your work there is often a contrast between the collective, like the street riots, and the isolation of the individual, represented through both free-standing and isolated human figures. What is the relation between the collective and the individual that you investigate? During my Delft studies, I came across several readings, quite popular in studies of architectural theory, like works by Debord, Negri, Arendt, Hardt and many more. Although I am not influenced by such texts anymore, some concepts actually shaped my ideas on the urban condition, that may be roughly put on two main poles: first, we have the dominant concept of the feeling of isolation in respect to the modern metropolis, the idea of the lonely crowd as Debord puts it in the Society of the Spectacle. Secondly, one can see the city as the territory of encounters, where the potential of social struggle is shaped, “when, for instance, people communicate their different knowledge, different capacities, to form cooperatively something com-
September 2021 printed by Digital Team, Fano
Fabiano Micocci is graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Roma Tre in 2002 where he also followed the post-graduate course History of the Design Process (2003). He obtained his PhD in Architecture and Urban Design from the University of Florence (2010). His thesis focused on Mediterranean architecture after Second World War. He is assistant professor at the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly, Greece. Previously he taught at the University of Florence, Lebanese American University and Portsmouth University, as well as in many international workshops and summer schools. His articles have appeared in international magazines and academic journals like FAM Magazine, Footprints, Horizonte, Metamorfosi, Monu, OFFICINA*, Studio and others. He edited the special issue Lebanon: Refugees and Urbanization (Camera Cronica, n. 17, 2017) and he also published the book Zissis Kotionis. The Architecture of Becoming (Libria, 2020). He is co-founder of NEAR architecture, an architecture office that focuses on design and research, based in Athens and Rome, which in 2013 won the New Italian Blood prize - 10 Best Landscape Practice. He is also associate fellow at Urban Transcripts, an international network of experts on cities.
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In this book, Athens is depicted like an incomplete and unfinished city, in which its parts are in permanent construction, or continual ruination. But it is exactly this permanent condition of instability – its openness and formal instability – that offers the possibility of inhabiting the city again. Once more, the task of collage is to continue with its disruptive and radical legacy, which is to build and variegate a contradictory and often paradoxical urban iconography that helps make the fragmented and often irreconcilable parts of the city coexist.