THIS SUMMER, the National Theatre of Northern Greece is flying high and very far… Around the globe in fact. Expat Greek artists from around the world have ‘spread their wings’ in order to return to the motherland, via their art and photographic work, which will become part of a parallel event accompanying the staging of Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ (to be performed by the National Theatre of Northern Greece). The ancient comedy has been translated into modern Greek by K.Ch. Myri, and directed by Yiannis Rigas. The premiere will take place at Thessaloniki’s Dassous Theatre (or Forest Theatre), on Wednesday, July 22. Over 30 artists (eg. from America, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Russia, France, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Germany, UK), have created works inspired by Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’, and their works will send out the following message: The contemporary world, fights against the pandemic. Both big and small ambassadors of the Greek ideal of transcendence have joined forces to fly high via their imagination and ideas, to ‘Nubicuculia’ (or ‘cloudcuckooland’), which is needed today more than ever before, in order to guide us towards the future, and away from restrictions, quarantines and all sorts of losses.
What characterizes this exhibition is the oxymoronic ‘proximity of distance’, and also its diversity: In terms of materials, forms, schools, approaches, even the dimensions of the works are so different, as are the canvases, the frames, the printing methods, the space/time they explore.
This artistic ‘global meeting’ is indeed a festival of the senses but also a libation for the uniqueness of every living being on earth. In the play ‘The Birds’, no character is the same as the other. How different is the lark from the hoopoe? This Aristophanean society is made of miscellaneous creatures. Different forms, different psychologies, different voices, different forms of expression. The same goes for the artists in this exhibition, who all have different biographies, with a different histories of artistic involvement, with varying interpretations. Each one reflects a different psychosynthesis via their work, also affected by where they have lived. The works are original, and contemporary, but also take from the past, but above all, they are works made by ‘migratory Greek birds’, for Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’.
These works will be welcomed by the works of some of Greece’s finest artists, who have also created their art for this event: Alekos Fassianos, George Stathopoulos, Angelos Panagiotou and Yannis Metzikof.
The exhibition entitled ‘The Fight Between Birds and Gods – Swarm Intelligence’, will also have its own travels, starting from the Dassous Theatre, in Thessaloniki, on July 22, it will then spread its wings for the ancient theatres of Dion and Fillippon, before heading to the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, on August 7, 8, and 9. The exhibition will then return to Thessaloniki, where it will be permanently on show in the foyer of Thessaloniki’s Royal Theatre (the home of the National Theatre of Northern Greece).
The brainchild behind the exhibition
The exhibition’s unique artistic concept, is the brainchild of journalist Chrysa Samou, who also realized/curated it. Samou, who for many years hosted ERT3’s programme ‘Diaspora’, says of this project:
“You know for me… it wasn’t so much about creating an exhibition but more about giving my heart and soul to this project and to the concatenation of all of the Diaspora… adding in this way to the conceptual bridge between today’s situation and the escape towards an imaginary tomorrow in which the universal truths of Hellenism and its culture will form the basis for a better world… a bit like the Aristophanean ideal world of ‘Cloudcuckooland’… For me, the Diaspora Greeks are our strength… and we need to finally see their worth.”
She goes on to say that: “The Diaspora Greeks were and will always be for me that ‘Cloudcuckooland’ – an ideal society of Hellenism. During the 15 years that I travelled as a journalist to the Greek societies around the world, presenting and reporting for ERT3’s programme ‘Diaspora’, I felt that every assignment was a ‘breath of fresh air’, which I would transfer back to the motherland. On our first meeting for this project, the artistic director of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, Nikos Kolovos said to me: “We need to build bridges with the expat Greeks”, and the idea of the exhibition was born there and then.”
Of course this was no easy project to realise, due to the restrictions created with the ongoing pandemic, yet it just goes to prove that art has no boundaries, and the Greek artists from around the world joined forces to send their works flying: “Although it was a difficult and challenging concept, due to the restrictions of the pandemic, the logic of ‘swarm intelligence’ which Aristophanes was exploring, has now connected with the ambassadors of Greek art and culture around the world and together we have managed to create this ‘ideal artistic state’ in the form of an exhibition, despite the fight between Gods and Birds! They have come to give the protagonists of the ancient play an ecumenical and universal context, something which was also part of that ancient Greek spirit which has travelled through the ages,” explains Chrysa Samou.
A few words from Nikos Kolovos (Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Northern Greece): “This artistic venture forms a parallel universe to the theatrical staging of ‘The Birds’, a critique of sorts on contemporary dead ends. Many expat artists were called upon to express in multifarious ways, this diverse ecumenical escape but also to give an answer, imbued with genetic empathy. Like… an alternative ‘chorus’ of sorts, these artists, photographers, visual poets, architects, sculptors, have feathered with their work the Aristophanean lyricism and await together with the hoopoe for the exit from all sorts of tyrannies (confinement, restrictions, fear, separation), in a world that fights to reach the kingdom of utopia, between earth and sky, showing at the same time the unrelentless Greek spirit for centuries now.
In this way, these amazing Greek art works have embraced the world of ancient Greek Aristophanean comedy, the world of the Lark, of Tireas, of Peisthetaerus, of Evelpides, of Trivallos, of Iris and of Avlitis. As protagonists in the quest for the kingdom of the birds, in their own ‘Nubicuculia’, they shout ‘Will we fly?’, guiding us over the clouds. This is the theatrical proposition of the State Theatre of Northern Greece this summer.”
The concept of ‘Cloudcuckooland’, a personal interpretation (by participating artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos):
“The term ‘Cloudcuckooland’ is basically inspired by the ideal kingdom in the sky that was created by birds in Aristophanes’ play ‘The Birds’, first performed in 414BC. Although a comedy, the play’s serious side explores the notion of utopia, and the failings of human nature in such a way, that it is relevant to this day. Because let’s face it, human nature hasn’t changed that much, and that is the tragedy that has brought us to today’s dire straits, and to the pandemic that we are witnessing.
In the English language, ‘cloudcuckooland’, might be a derogatory term when used today to describe someone’s state of mind (suggesting that they are too idealistic/head in the clouds), while in the Greek language no negative notions have been attached to the name of this Aristophanean ideal city state. However, maybe we need to look once more towards the positive notion of this term, and the aim towards creating a better world, and how it could be achieved, in order to go forward.
I remember in school, (a very English, strict school), being told that ‘If you aim for the branches, you will only reach the ground, but if you aim for the sky, you will reach the tree tops’, (or words to that effect). And as a little ‘Greek girl’ then, in that school of lofty ideals, I found it a bit daunting. However, life has taught me that this is indeed the state of mind necessary in order to move forward, despite the inevitable pitfalls one meets on the way.
For me, it is a great honour to be part of this project, for which I created the work ‘Nightingale and Human’. This work has a passage from the Aristophanean play embodied into it (via collage). It is the piece in which the beauty of nature, and the nightingale’s song, are juxtaposed with the ugly side of the human”.
Participating artists in the exhibition: ‘The Fight Between Birds and Gods – Swarm Intelligence’: Lisa Sotilis (Italy); Phillip Tsiaras (United States); George Nassos (Germany); Adam Karamanlis (Germany); Stelios Papageorgiou (Hungary); Andrea Papageorgiou (Hungary); Marina Vamvakas (Belgium); Yiannis Vellis (Holland);
Flora Kavoura (Egypt); Stella Sevastopoulos (United Kingdom); Lydia Levenderis (Argentina); Alkistis Athanasiadou (Mexico); Rena Filli (Turkey); Anthia Loizou (Austria); Giorgos Kontis (Germany); Giorgos Maraziotis (Belgium); Katerina Christidi, (France); Nia Hefe Filiogianni (United Kingdom); Stelios Karamanolis (Germany);
Vassiliea Stylianidou (Germany); Danai Sioziou (Germany); Ifigenia Papadatou (United States); Mary Anna Pomonis (United States); Costas Picadas (United States);
Christophoros Doulgeris (Germany); Kostas Pappas (United States); Elena Poka (United Kingdom); Persefoni Myrtsou (Turkey); Georgia Kotretsos (South Africa);
Stylianos Papadopoulos (United States); Lydia Venieris (United States); Nina Ioannnidou (Russia); Evaggelos Papadopoulos (Germany).
The four Greek artists who will be joining forces with the expat artists and welcoming them: Yannis Metzikof, Angelos Panagiotou, George Stathopoulos, Alekos Fassianos.
- This event has been realized with the support of Kentavros Security Services, Stangos Florist, Masoutis, Domotechniki, and the sponsorship of Ellinair, The Luxury Hotels, Fix Hellas.