CULTURE

Athens and its sprawling periphery

Any exhibition on the subject of the suburbs of Athens, such as the one which opened recently at the Stathmos Alpha modern art center (8 Protogenous, Psyrri), brings to the surface a crucial dimension of the capital’s recent development, an issue which has not been closely examined up until now. Population shifts from the capital’s central districts to the newly created suburbs in the north and south – initially during the 1970s, and increasing in subsequent years – led to radical changes in the city’s makeup, and ultimately provided the foundations for the multifaceted metropolitan center evident today. The creation of new market regions whose coverage went beyond the traditional confines of the neighborhood, combined with the downgrading of central districts such as Kypseli, Exarchia and Pangrati, led to the creation of a new economic network which replaced the relatively simpler model of the 1960s. Athens’s new financial geography, supported chiefly by the dynamic business growth of the newer suburbs, eventually forged new values, behavioral patterns and customs, based on consumption and efforts toward a higher quality of life. This ambitious exhibition, titled «Suburbia, The Vast Expanse of Athenian Suburbs,» attempts to trace the dimensions of this newly created metropolitan model, the way it is manifested through architecture, modern art, and other fields, including daily activity. It is important to note this exhibition’s timing. Held on the eve of 2003, the event takes a look at where and how two-thirds of the Attica region’s population resides and works. It seems that the passing of time has facilitated the conditions for a more objective evaluation of the city’s more recent history – a chapter which is no less important than the building frenzy of the 1960s, which has made a permanent mark on the city. The exhibition is presented primarily through photography and video. For the first time, an attempt is being made to depict the capital’s suburbs through typical expressions of life, such as consumption, entertainment and work. A considerable number of side events will also be held to enhance the exhibition’s offering. In January, the School of Fine Arts has programmed a one-day seminar on a subject titled «Artists Against Cities,» during which the city’s depiction through modern art and other artistic activity will be examined. Art theorists and artists will take part. In another side event, the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Aaron Betsky, will give a lecture at the Culture Ministry’s amphitheater on February 14. The upcoming initiative is being jointly prepared by the ministry and the Dutch Embassy in Athens. Later on, in the spring, articles contributed by theoreticians, architects and journalists will be compiled and published by Futura Press.