Sunday, October 23, 2011

Little wooden seats and the woman of his dreams

Little wooden seats and the woman of his dreams, 2006
Wood mdf, plywood, metal, lamp, cd, cd player, 2 speakers, amplifier.
Variable dimensions.

In the framework of the series Every Month selections from the museum’s permanent collections are presented from October 12th until November 30th on the mezzanine.
Little wooden seats and the woman of his dreams, 2006 by Kostis Velonis has been chosen as Work of the Month for October – November.

The theme of several of Kostis Velonis’ works deals with emotions such as desire, love, failure, loneliness, loss and melancholy. In the work Little wooden seats and the woman of his dreams, 2006 the artist deals with a love story between two historical figures and creates an intensely poetic work, giving a timeless dimension to the emotions of the love story that he “narrates”. Herodes Atticus after the wrongful death of his wife Aspasia Rigillis mourned so much that he decided to honor the memory of his wife by building the “Rigillis Conservatory” later renamed “Odeon of Herodes Atticus”. Velonis creates a sound installation consisting of a model of the Conservatory, on which he places a large wooden heart that lights up the space. The red light refers to the color of passion and attributes a dramatic element to the installation. On the last stand of the theater, the artist has placed two small stools of different size that refer to the two figures of his story, but also encourage daydreaming around imaginary relationships. In the surrounding space a cover of the song The first time ever I saw your face by Ewan MacColl is heard, sung by Johnny Cash. The special, deep and bass voice of the famous American singer and composer heightens the intensity of the drama and melancholy, while simultaneously bringing to mind the lament of MacColl for the loss of his wife, to whom he had dedicated this particular song in 1957. In Velonis’ sound installation the two stories of love and grief meet each other.

The red light refers to the color of passion and attributes a dramatic element to the installation. On the last stand of the theater, the artist has placed two small stools of different size that refer to the two figures of his story, but also encourage daydreaming around imaginary relationships. In the surrounding space a cover of the song The first time ever I saw your face by Ewan MacColl is heard, sung by Johnny Cash. The special, deep and bass voice of the famous American singer and composer heightens the intensity of the drama and melancholy, while simultaneously
bringing to mind the lament of MacColl for the loss of his wife, to whom he had dedicated this particular song in 1957. In Velonis’ sound installation the two stories of love and grief meet each other.

EMST National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens
12/10/2011 - 30/11/2011

Bragg’s Law

Josephine Schuppang of Technical University in Berlin writes,

I was pointed to your blog when I talked to a friend about my newest tattoo. He told me that you are collecting scientific tattoos. I didn’t even know there were other people who did that sort of thing. You bet my tattoo artist looked strangely at me for my request.

So attached find a picture of my tattoo of Bragg’s Law. It is along the side of my left foot and shows nicely in my favorite pair of heels.

I studied Physics, and although I wanted to go in to Astronomy I got lost a bit and landed in Crystallography, which has a long history here in Berlin. Last year I wrote my thesis on the transmission electron microscopy of nitride semiconductors. After my defense I wanted to get a tattoo to remember this occasion. But all the formulas I did use were too long and complex to use, and all the images I took wouldn’t have worked.

So I decided on a fundamental formula, Bragg’s Law. It is important for electron diffraction, so that fits. And I have always liked the Bragg story, the father-son tag team of physics and the fact that William Lawrence Bragg was only 25 when they got their Nobel Prize.

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world this week, science may have confirmed the protesters' worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study's assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue (Image: PLoS One)

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York's Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world's transnational corporations (TNCs).

"Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it's conspiracy theories or free-market," says James Glattfelder. "Our analysis is reality-based."
Previous studies have found that a few TNCs own large chunks of the world's economy, but they included only a limited number of companies and omitted indirect ownerships, so could not say how this affected the global economy - whether it made it more or less stable, for instance.

The Zurich team can. From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company's operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power.

The work, to be published in PloS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

The Occupy Wall Street movement spreads to London (Image: Dave Stock)

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.

Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core's tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. "If one [company] suffers distress," says Glattfelder, "this propagates."

"It's disconcerting to see how connected things really are," agrees George Sugihara of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, a complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank.

Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), warns that the analysis assumes ownership equates to control, which is not always true. Most company shares are held by fund managers who may or may not control what the companies they part-own actually do. The impact of this on the system's behaviour, he says, requires more analysis.

Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power, the analysis could help make it more stable. By finding the vulnerable aspects of the system, economists can suggest measures to prevent future collapses spreading through the entire economy. Glattfelder says we may need global anti-trust rules, which now exist only at national level, to limit over-connection among TNCs. Bar-Yam says the analysis suggests one possible solution: firms should be taxed for excess interconnectivity to discourage this risk.

One thing won't chime with some of the protesters' claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. "Such structures are common in nature," says Sugihara.

Newcomers to any network connect preferentially to highly connected members. TNCs buy shares in each other for business reasons, not for world domination. If connectedness clusters, so does wealth, says Dan Braha of NECSI: in similar models, money flows towards the most highly connected members. The Zurich study, says Sugihara, "is strong evidence that simple rules governing TNCs give rise spontaneously to highly connected groups". Or as Braha puts it: "The Occupy Wall Street claim that 1 per cent of people have most of the wealth reflects a logical phase of the self-organising economy."

So, the super-entity may not result from conspiracy. The real question, says the Zurich team, is whether it can exert concerted political power. Driffill feels 147 is too many to sustain collusion. Braha suspects they will compete in the market but act together on common interests. Resisting changes to the network structure may be one such common interest.
The top 50 of the 147 superconnected companies

1. Barclays plc
2. Capital Group Companies Inc
3. FMR Corporation
4. AXA
5. State Street Corporation
6. JP Morgan Chase & Co
7. Legal & General Group plc
8. Vanguard Group Inc
10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc
11. Wellington Management Co LLP
12. Deutsche Bank AG
13. Franklin Resources Inc
14. Credit Suisse Group
15. Walton Enterprises LLC
16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp
17. Natixis
18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc
19. T Rowe Price Group Inc
20. Legg Mason Inc
21. Morgan Stanley
22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc
23. Northern Trust Corporation
24. Société Générale
25. Bank of America Corporation
26. Lloyds TSB Group plc
27. Invesco plc
28. Allianz SE 29. TIAA
30. Old Mutual Public Limited Company
31. Aviva plc
32. Schroders plc
33. Dodge & Cox
34. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc*
35. Sun Life Financial Inc
36. Standard Life plc
37. CNCE
38. Nomura Holdings Inc
39. The Depository Trust Company
40. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance
41. ING Groep NV
42. Brandes Investment Partners LP
43. Unicredito Italiano SPA
44. Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan
45. Vereniging Aegon
46. BNP Paribas
47. Affiliated Managers Group Inc
48. Resona Holdings Inc
49. Capital Group International Inc
50. China Petrochemical Group Company

* Lehman still existed in the 2007 dataset used
Graphic: The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy

Text by Andy Coghlan and Debora MacKenzie
19 October 2011.

The world is a forgetful place

Is all memory technology an invitation to forgetting?

At the new, wonderfully overwhelming LA Review of Books, Casey Walker uses Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein” to raise the difficult question that seems to be at the heart of the recent study surveyed here on transactive memory, at the crux of this Radiolab segment, and at the nexus of much apprehension about the future of the internet.

As Casey writes:
“The world is a forgetful place. We cannot remember even what we wish to, what we’ve tried so hard to hold onto, our holy books and most famous writers and the terrain of the planet on which we live. Call it the Sebald problem: the mind is always lapsing into oblivion.”

And we worry that technology — once it was writing, now it’s computers — is aiding and abetting this dispersal of memory into oblivion. Rather than inviting us to forget, however, Casey points out that ever more complex technologies actually bolster the sort of “effortless” memory we rely on in our “more prosaic lives.” We don’t need to be “memory champions,” like the ones Foer aspires to imitate in his book (prodigies who can instantly recall umpteen digits of Pi) because we have technology that stores such information, leaving our minds free to learn and think and remember other things. Or, as Casey puts it, “We might remember less, but we still know more, which makes it hard to mourn the memory palace’s loss.”

The concern that technology is destroying our memory seems even more bizarre, bordering on the realm of paradoxical, since we simultaneously worry that data storage technology will never allow us to forget. As Jeffery Rosen wrote just last summer in a New York Times Magazine front page piece called, “The End of Forgetting,” forgetting has immense social value, but the advance of memory technology “increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past.”

How are we supposed to make sense of the interaction between the web and memory if we believe that the Internet is pushing our memories into oblivion at the same time that we insist on our “constitutional right to oblivion” and “reinventing forgetting on the Internet”?

Wikipedia is the perfect embodiment of these conflicting anxieties. On the one hand, Wikipedia (plus a solid 3G or WiFi connection) offers a convenient source of transactive memory — we don’t need to carry random trivia around in our brains because Wikipedia will “remember” it for us. On the other hand, Wikipedia has the potential to present a biased documentation of biographical information that could prevent the sort of social forgetting Rosen was writing about. Thus, Wikipedia represents what we love and hate about computing technology all at the same time — instant access to unbridled information — suggesting that our continued efforts to make conclusive statements about the future of memory and technology are futile because it ignores the magnificent complexity of both.

We can embrace or denounce futuristic narratives about downloadable brains or the death of privacy at the (algorithmic) hands of online personalization, but it’s hard to imagine a future in which we don’t protect both our biological memory, no matter its shortcomings, and our privacy, no matter how much we seek transparent information.

In the great human story, it’s not the end of memory or the end of forgetting. The tale is still unfolding as our memories are adapting to technology and we are adapting technology to complement our memories.

9 sept. 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Folkets Hus" - Local Labour Centers

..Known as "Folkets Hus" in Sweden, they have been built by the labour organisations to provide meeting halls. In this publication that i found today, there is the presentation of the local labour center of Kristianstad, 1964.
They vary in size, but the emphasis is at the modernization of the building with the help of co-operative building societies and the welfare state.

The Same Sad Rhetoric

The Same Sad Rhetoric, 2011
166 x 150 x 88 cm


The 3rd Athens Biennale 2011 MONODROME is considered the final part of a trilogy which started with DESTROY ATHENS 2007 and continued with HEAVEN 2009. Drawing upon the life and work of Walter Benjamin and inspired by his book by the same title (One way Street, 1928), MONODROME is curated by Nicolas Bourriaud and X&Y (Xenia Kalpaktsoglou and Poka-Yio, co-founders of the Athens Biennale). It is a narrative broadcasting from historical venues in the centre of Athens and articulating an imaginary dialogue between The Little Prince and Walter Benjamin. As the intellectual retreats defeated in the face of the escalated distress, the Little Prince keeps questioning this condition with the disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child.

MONODROME is being realized despite the Crisis that affects Greece heavily. Produced in a state of emergency, and through the synergy of all participants and a large group of volunteers, MONODROME assembles the diverse pieces of an exploratory puzzle, addressing the "here and now". At the same time the exhibition attempts to question historical narratives that have functioned as dictums of the Greek sociopolitical and aesthetic identity and resulted in the country's perennial suspension between a ‘before' (tradition) and an ‘after' (modernization). Being usually perceived and promoted as an emblematic city, Athens today is the epicentre of the Greek upheaval, a place of massive demonstrations and public discussions.

MONODROME aims to provoke debate around something that has broken down, but also offer the possibility at a glimpse of something new to come.

Participants: Bas Jan Ader, David Adler, The Angelo Foundation, Archisearch, Aristide Antonas,Badlands Unlimited, Vassili Balatsos, Kostas Bassanos, Hans op de Beeck, Filanthi Bogea, Pierre Bonnard, Yannis Bournias, Andrea Bowers, Vlassis Caniaris, Freddie Carabott, Paul Chan, Pantelis Chandris, Nikos Charalambidis, Marcus Coates, Ida-Marie Corell, Cultural Center of Olympic Airways Employees' (POLKEOA), Josef Dabernig, Daily Lazy, Mark Dion & Robert Williams, Jimmy Durham, Shannon Ebner, Sean Edwards, Elmgreen & Dragset, Matias Faldbakken, Floater, Robert Florey & Slavko Vorkapić, Sam Forsythe & New Forms of Life, Dimitrios Galanis, Liam Gillick, Jean-Luc Godard & Anne-Marie Miéville , Katerina Gogou, Vangelis Gokas, Jens Haaning, Vasileios Hatzis, Imagine the City, Yota Ioannidou & Teresa Maria Diaz Nerio, Georgina Kakoudaki & 4Frontal, Stelios Karamanolis & Toula Ploumi, Agni Katzouraki, Michalis Katzourakis, Kavecs Projects, Janice Kerbel, Kernel, Jakob Kolding, Nikos Koundouros, Panayiotis Lambrou, Julien Langendorff, "Leaking" Intervention, Esther Lemi, Lucas Lenglet, Norman Leto, Andreas Lolis, Tonis Lykouressis, Lucky PDF, Makis Malafekas, Caroline May, Vassilis Mazomenos, Metahaven, Tracey Moffat, "Neos Aristophanes", Periodical circa 1889-1894, Yannis Oikonomides, Henrik Olesen, Orizontas Gegonoton, Jean Painlevé, Rallou Panagiotou, Maria Papadimitriou, Rena Papaspyrou, Christos Papoulias, Vicky Pericleous, Paris Petridis, Phrixos, Julien Prévieux, The Public School, Józef Robakowski, Tom Sachs, San Francisco Actor's Workshop / Herbert Blau, Kostas Sfikas, Dionysis Sotovikis, Spyros Staveris, Studio Karamanolis, Fiona Tan, TANK TV, Yannis Theodoropoulos, Theophilos Hatzimichael, Harald Thys & Jos de Gruyter, Jalal Toufic, Under Construction, Yorgos Vakirtzis, Ino Varvariti, Vangelis Vlahos, We Never Closed, Uygur Yilmaz

3rd Athens Biennale 2011 MONODROME
23 October - 11 December 2011

Markets Can Be Very, Very Wrong

Muller, Mendelsohn, and Nordhaus have a new paper in the American Economic Review that should be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology. It won’t, of course, but let me lay out the case anyway.

What MMN do is estimate the cost imposed on society by air pollution, and allocate it across industries. The costs being calculated, by the way, don’t include the long-run threat of climate change; they’re focused on measurable impacts of pollution on health and productivity, with the most important effects involving how pollutants — especially small particulates — affect human health, and use standard valuations on mortality and morbidity to turn these into dollars.

Even with this restricted vision of costs, they find that the costs of air pollution are big, and heavily concentrated in a few industries. In fact, there are a number of industries that inflict more damage in the form of air pollution than the value-added by these industries at market prices.

It’s important to be clear about what this means. It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal — maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.

At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. What Muller et al are doing is putting numbers to this basic proposition — and the numbers turn out to be big. So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you’d be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?

Hahahahaha. Today’s American right doesn’t believe in externalities, or correcting market failures; it believes that there are no market failures, that capitalism unregulated is always right. Faced with evidence that market prices are in fact wrong, they simply attack the science.

What this tells us is that we are not actually having a debate about economics. Our free-market advocates aren’t actually operating from a model of how the economy works; they’re operating from some combination of knee-jerk defense of the haves against the rest and mystical faith that self-interest always leads to the common good.

And they’re wrong, with every breath we take.

Text by Paul Krugman
Source: New York Times,30 Sept.2011

Clothed with the Sun.·.

Panos Tsagaris, Clothed with the Sun.·.
76x56cm, 2011.

October Tune

A stuffed quail
on the mantelpiece minds its tail.
The regular chirr of the old clock's healing
in the twilight the rumpled helix.
Through the window,birch candles fail.

For the fourth day the sea hits the dike with the hard horizon.
Put aside the book, take your sewing kit;
patch my clothes without turning the light on:
golden hair
keeps the corner lit.

Joseph Brodsky
(1968/translated by the author)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Au hasard Balthazar

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Dir: Robert Bresson
Here is the final scene, very painful especially for all those viewers that have seen the film in the past.

As delicate as an ass’s bray

As delicate as an ass’s bray are the little lights which descend from the distant city inside you can’t pedal fast enough to get there and when you finally do catbirds have called it a day ears grow dim you are barely a sound so you head out again for the ring of trees.

Julia Story, 2011.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reconstructed Window with Frame

Det rekonstruerade fonstret med karm, foto I.Roth
Malmo, Sweden.

What Happens when a Leftist Philosopher Discovers God?

Society is the social science journal superbly edited by Jonathan Imber. In its fall issue it carries an article by Philippe Portier (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris), entitled “Religion and Democracy in the Thought of Juergen Habermas”. Coincidentally, in a recent issue of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Habermas is on a list of German celebrity intellectuals who pop up continuously in the media. (The list includes Margot Kaessmann, the Protestant bishop who resigned after being caught driving under the influence. Curiously, she only became a celebrity after this unfortunate incident.) Habermas has been a public intellectual (a more polite term for celebrity) for a very long time. I have never been terribly interested in Habermas, but the coincidence made me think about him. Portier’s article does tell an intriguing story. It might be called a man-bites-dog story.

Habermas is exactly my age. Our paths crossed briefly in the 1960s, when he was a visiting professor in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, where I was then teaching. We did not particularly take to each other. I was put off by both his leftist politics and his ponderous philosophical language. (German philosophers, no matter where located on the ideological spectrum, vie with each other in producing texts which are comprehensible only to a small group of initiates.) I also sensed a certain professorial arrogance. I remember reading a response by Habermas to a critic, limited to the statement that he refused to discuss with an individual who quoted Hegel from a secondary source.

Habermas first received a doctorate in philosophy, but moved toward sociology under the influence of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, then acquired a second doctorate in the latter field under the fiercely Marxist Wolfgang Abendroth. In 1964 he became a professor in Frankfurt, as successor to Max Horkheimer, who by then was a neo-Marxist icon. Habermas was a hero of the so-called student revolution which erupted in the late 1960s. His students fanned out across West German academia, creating a network which for a while administered an effective ideological hegemony in the human sciences. At the time I found Habermas’ role in this rather objectionable. But I gave him credit for distancing himself sharply from the more radical wing of the student movement, as he later distanced himself from the anti-Enlightenment views of the postmodernists. In 1981 Habermas published his magnum opus, The Theory of Communicative Action, a strong endorsement of reason as the foundation of public life in a democracy. He retired from his professorship in 1993, but not from his role as an active advocate of Enlightenment rationality. It is debatable how far his more recent work still continues under a neo-Marxist theoretical umbrella. His views on religion have shifted considerably.

Portier distinguishes three phases in Habermas’ treatment of religion. In phase one, lasting up to the early 1980s, he still viewed religion as an “alienating reality”, a tool of domination for the powerful. In good Marxist tradition, he thought that religion would eventually disappear, as modern society comes to be based on “communicative rationality” and no longer needs the old irrational illusions. In phase two, roughly 1985-2000, this anti-religious animus is muted. Religion now is seen as unlikely to disappear, because many people (though presumably not Habermas) continue to need its consolations. The public sphere, however, must be exclusively dominated by rationality. Religion must be relegated to private life. One could say that in this phase, at least in the matter of religion, Habermas graduated from Marxism to the French ideal of laicite—the public life of the republic kept antiseptically clean of religious contamination.

Phase three is more interesting. As of the late 1990s Habermas’ view of religion is more benign. Religion is now seen as having a useful public function, quite apart from its private consolations. The “colonization” of society by “turbo-capitalism” (nice term—I don’t know if Habermas coined it) has created a cultural crisis and has undermined the solidarity without which democratic rationality cannot function. We are now moving into a “post-secular society”, which can make good use of the “moral intuition” that religion still supplies. Following in the footsteps of Ernst Bloch and other neo-Marxist philo-Godders, Habermas also credits Biblical religion, Judaism and Christianity, for having driven out magical thinking (here there is an echo of Max Weber’s idea of “ the disenchantment of the world”), and for having laid the foundations of individual autonomy and rights.

Habermas developed these ideas in a number of publications and media interviews. The most interesting source (not discussed by Portier in the article) is a 2007 publication by a Catholic press, The Dialectics of Secularization. It is a conversation between Habermas and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (at the time of this exchange head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, subsequently Pope Benedict XVI). Habermas here gives credit to Christianity for being the purveyor of a universal egalitarianism and for an openness to reason, thus continuing to provide moral substance for democracy. Not surprisingly, Ratzinger agreed.

I am not sure what Habermas’ personal beliefs are. But I don’t think that his change of mind about religion has anything to do with some sort of personal conversion. Rather, as has been the case with most sociologists of religion, Habermas has looked at the world and concluded that secularization theory—that is, the thesis that modernization necessarily leads to a decline of religion—does not fit the facts of the matter. Beyond this acknowledgement of the empirical reality of the contemporary world, Habermas admits the historical roots in Biblical religion of modern individualism, and he thinks that this connection is still operative today. Yet, when all is said and done, Habermas now has a positive view of religion (at least in its Judaeo-Christian version) for utilitarian reasons: Religion, whether true or not, is socially useful.

Let us stipulate that smoking is unhealthy. Let us then assume that a tribe in some remote jungle believes that tobacco smoke attracts malevolent spirits. A public health official sent into the region does not, of course, share this superstition. But he makes use of it in dissuading people from acquiring a taste for newly available cigarettes—because he knows that some people do the right thing for a wrong reason. Eventually, he thinks, people will do the right thing for a better reason. And that will be the end of the demonological theory of tobacco smoke.

Any sociologist will agree that religion, true or not, is useful for the solidarity and moral consensus of society. The problem is that this utility depends on at least some people actually believing that there is the supernatural reality that religion affirms. The utility ceases when nobody believes this anymore.

Edward Gibbon, in chapter 2 of his famous history of the decline of the Roman Empire, has this to say: “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful”. When you cross the philosopher with the magistrate, you get Habermas.

Text by Peter Berger

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Little gardens of happiness

TAF is pleased to present the exhibition Little Gardens of Happiness, which opens on Thursday, November 10 and will run until December 11, 2011. The exhibition is curated by the students of the Curating and Organizing Art Exhibitions seminar, part of the Athens College – College of Psyhiko adult continuing education programmes, and is led by curator and art critic Marina Fokides.
“Near to the sorrow of the world, and often upon its volcanic earth, man has laid out his little gardens of happiness;” Guided by the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, the curators attempt to pose timely questions regarding the possible ways in which societies react in times of crisis.
Man has the inherent tendency to voluntarily create for himself personal microcosms; small, intimate utopias that safeguard his remaining shreds of happiness. This personal space seems to operate as a symbolically protected garden – shelter. Sometimes however, these gardens transform into a personal hell where the individual feels isolated.
To what extent do these personal universes offer relief, to what extent do they cause terror and how extreme can they become? In this present time of uncertainty the little gardens of happiness can operate as spaces of self-organization and reevaluation, as sources of contrivance and as spaces of invention and mental formation and help us provide answers to the questions posed by reality itself.
Giorgos Panousopoulos’ film Mania will be shown as part of the exhibition.
Participating artists:
Stathis Athanasiou, Steven Antonakos, Kostis Velonis, Nikos Giavropoulos, Vangelis Gokas, Eunomia Dimitriadou, Theodoros Zafiropoulos, Christos Kolios, Giorgos Korbakis, Alexis Kiritsopoulos, Leda Luss Luyken, Vally Nomidou, Zafos Xagoraris, Giorgos Panousopoulos, Marie-Françoise Poutays, Marina Provatidou, Xenis Sahinis, Dimitris Tsoublekas, Pantelis Chandris, Manolis Charos, Alexandros Psihoulis, En Flo, Organization Earth
Fotini Vergidou, Pinelopi Katsatou, Evangelia Melissourgaki, Poulheria Papageorgiou, Eleni Papagiannopoulou, Calliope Stamatacou

Exhibition opening: Thursday 10 November 2011, 20.30
TAF Gallery, Athens.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Junta Aesthetics

“The vision is but one. It is well known, it is certifiable, it is the vision of Greece. The Greece of Greece. Greece which will be for the Greeks their lives, their purpose. And it will be asked: What is the form of the vision?
G. Papadopoulos in the newspaper Eléftheros Kósmos, 10-2-68.

Bost’s cartoon for the Nation's Vow.Magazine "Anti".

35 years after the restoration of democracy the military regime is still remembered as imposing a particular aesthetics of its own devising. As Káti to Oréon, published by the friends of ANTI magazine who experienced the Junta, aptly reminds us, “Vulgarity, pomposity, militarism and continually atrocious taste marked the events and language of the dictatorship of the 21st of April.” Those not yet born at the time mainly experience this seven year period through television and are likely to associate it with a few select moments—black and white footage of celebrations of “the military Glory of Greece,” for example, or Papadopoulos’s famous words: “Hellas is a patient who needs to be placed on the operating table.” But what might proceed from a recognition that the aesthetics of the Junta have a history prior to the Junta, that in fact the Junta institutionalized an aesthetics already in place and already quite popular? Small-scale re-enactments of the diachronic virtues of Hellenism on the occasion of national celebrations were popular at schools throughout the 20th century. The usage of a certain language as indicative of a preference for the extreme right certainly pre-dates the 21st of April, while the origins of architectural projects of national grandiose such as the Táma tou Éthnous can be traced to the beginning of the 19th century, the Epanástasi, and the years of the King Otto. There is also much more to the aesthetics of this period than what is publicly remembered and discursively allowed to be expressed. The fact that prominent figures of Greek public life—Aliki Vougiouklaki, Dimitris Papamichail, Kostas Voutsas, Viki Moscholiou, Evangelos Papanoutsos, Ilias Lalaounis, and Konstantinos Doxiadis to name a few—participated in the public production of a certain aesthetics during the Junta raises an important question: How do we regard the professional activities of individuals in times of non-democratic rule? Along which lines is the history of the recent past produced? If certain figures are stigmatized for empowering a military regime by virtue of continuing to work, why is such stigma largely absent from their contemporary biographies?

This panel discussion on the aesthetics of a painful period attempts to address these questions by exploring the case of those who did not resort to silence, did not choose self-imposed exile, but continued to live and work in Greece during the dictatorship. It brings together two artists and two academics (a presenter and a panel discussant) working across media (literature, video art, photographic essay, and ethnographic paper) to facilitate a dialogue between contemporary art and modern Greek studies as well as a larger discussion on the Junta, its culture, and its continuous divisive impact on Greek society. Untitled (The Remake) 13 min.
The panel commences with the screening of Untitled (The Remake). This is a single channel video installation investigating Junta aesthetics through the use of archival material from the years 1967-1974, a detailed reconstruction of Studio B of Τ.Ε.Δ (Television of the Armed Forces) and the artist’s own video footage. The video commences with official celebrations, festivities and parades in the Athens Marble Stadium and then depicts preparations for an evening broadcast. Three actors enact the final preparations of two newscasters and a cameraman minutes before they go “on air.” In the background, monitors show international news and original black and white footage of the real newscasters getting ready for the broadcast. The video’s structure encourages a range of theoretical explorations and attributes multiple interpretations to its title: Remake. It reminds us of the historical moments out of which Greek Television was born, while also commenting on the possibility of reality reconstruction, the fundamental role technology plays in this process, a dictatorial regime’s propaganda mechanisms and the ways in which reality is documented and presented in the news.

Kostis Velonis, The Nation's Vow-Ταμα του Εθνους, Ongoing project(detail), 2011

The Nations Vow: Part I (ethnographic essay) and Part II (photographic essay)
Following the screening of the Remake, the panel presents the preliminary findings of a research project undertaken by an anthropologist and a visual artist concerning the Táma tou Éthnous (The Nation’s Vow). The term refers both to a collective vow and to a (unrealized) church that Greek notables promised to construct in the early years of the Epanástasi. Almost a century and a half later, the idea of fulfilling the old vow was revived by the military regime, which launched several architectural contests, established a special fund, and organized fundraising campaigns.

The junta’s conception of the project was first articulated in documents introducing the architectural competitions (later mocked by ANTI for their incoherency and particular writing style). Eventually this enterprise drew the interest of shipping magnets, businessmen, artists, architects, and engineers.

Konstantinos Doxiadis, for instance, obsessed with the Táma as early as 1964, produced plans, models, and monographs elaborating on the significance of the Nation’s Vow and the steps to be taken towards its fulfilment, while jewellery designer Ilias Lalaounis published newspaper articles in which he proposed a particular architecture for the Táma inspired by a study of the dome of St Sophia. The ethnographic paper and the photographic essay (i.e. two approaches to the same theme) explore the controversial story of this endeavour by revisiting developments in 20th century modernist architecture and presenting oral accounts (e.g. interviews with Stylianos Pattakos) and archival material (ranging from topographical maps produced by the National Technical University to Bost’s cartoons).

In this way the project inquires into an unrealized government enterprise that would have radically altered the Athenian landscape, may well have marked the end of modernism in Church construction, sheds light on a peculiar conception of nationhood as articulated in the proposed architecture of the Táma and poses a question concerning the mechanisms that block large scale state initiatives: Why was the Táma never built?

MGSA Panel Proposal
Participants: Kostis Kornetis (Brown University) Dimitris Antoniou (organizer, University of Oxford), Stefanos Tsivopoulos(ISCP NY International Studio Curatorial Program), Kostis Velonis (University of Thessaly, IASPIS, Sweden)
The 22nd Biennial MGSA Symposium is being held at
New York University
October 13-16, 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Easy Exotic

There is at least three modes of travel, and most trips contain a blend of all three. You can graph the three extremes as three corners of a Travel Triangle: Relaxation, Destination, and Experience. The ideal trip would have an equal balance of all three, but most trips favor one side over the others. In my own personal travel I favor experience and destination and have almost no interest in relaxation. Your mileage may vary.

he three extremes represent a set of overlapping qualities.

Experience includes learning, change, difference, passions, uncertainties. A trip in this corner emphasizes encountering strange things, having your mind changed, going beyond your comfort, meeting as much otherness as you can.

Destination includes traveling with goals and achievements in mind -- completing a long thru-hike, or journey to a mountain peak, or all the state capitals, or completing a race, to be the first, or your personal best.

Relaxation is just that: rest, comfort, renewal, a sabbatical, a retreat from the worries and business of everyday life. It may include luxury but might be primitive or primeval.

Because I am deeply attracted to experience and learning, I find myself heading toward the exotic in my travels. Whenever I have a chance, I want to go to the most different place I can get to the fastest. And I rarely want to return to where I've been. In the relaxing mode of travel, returning to the same place is a large part of what makes it relaxing, even deeply comforting. The "family place" is of this type of renewal. In general this kind of restful vacation does not re-charge my batteries. I need to be squeezed by new things, rubbed hard with differences, and moved by something I did not expect. So in my travel I try to optimize "otherness." I am not looking for discomfort per se, or just roughing it, an outright death-defying adventure. That's a bit more destination and goal oriented than my fancy. In fact, learning does not have to be done out in the rain. You can journey to otherness without making it an endurance race. That's a balance I look for: trips that maximize experiences without requiring a focus on just the experiences of moving, racing, overcoming, winning, and achievement.

Accessible exotic is possible. I have my favorite places where I can fly into an international airport and then within a few hours swim in a total different culture offering alien lessons. A lot of these spots are in Asia, but also in other corners in the world. The picture below was taken in a place that is no longer so accessible. But when I took this picture of goat ball game (buzkashi) in Afghanistan, I was not flying in a helicopter. Rather I had taken a $2 public bus ride to a town in the north and followed the crowds to the edge of town and was sitting on a hillside with hundreds of others watching the Friday games. It was easy and exotic. The easy exotic is not hard to find, and so immensely rewarding when touched. Easy exotic is a place you should be able to reach within 24 hours or less from your front door. And it should reveal to you at least 5 things within the first day, or next 24 hours, that cause you to smile in amazement, and wonder at the nature of humans.

Where would you go?

26 April 2011