Stemnitsa goes into cyberspace

Stemnitsa is a traditional settlement in the center of Arcadia in the Peloponnese with 120 permanent residents (and a summertime population of 3,000), 30 Albanian builders, one bakery and two sweet shops. But it is also a fantastical spot, a place of historical significance that had been abandoned but which has now been turned into a tourist resort, with restored stone houses set in a beautiful landscape. Images from the place – of wood and bronze, gray and white stripes, a ruined door, an empty wooden chest, the remains of an unfinished meal – all tell the human story about what once was and which is now nothing but a memory. Yet another story is that of the limits to communication and to each and every place. All information on and descriptions of Stemnitsa could fill innumerable pages or webpages, yet could still be replaced by an endless succession of images, sounds, drawings and plans. A group of 16 students from the architectural departments of the universities of Patras (Artists Workshop) and Volos and three artists, Panos Kouros, Dimos Dimitriou and Vanda Halyvopoulou, moved to Stemnitsa for a week (July 20 to 25) and set up a highly original workshop. The group project, which is continuously evolving, is a study of the area as a natural and social entity with all its residents, the buildings, the surrounding areas and all the elements and experiences that the project members acquired during their stay. The workshop’s title, «Diatopia: Traversing the landscape and creating communication networks between places,» announces the goal of this project. The material that the team members would gather and put together during the day would be made public through the seminar’s website on the Internet the very same night, where a series of messages from the other 10 participants in the project would be waiting for them. These external collaborators, at universities and research centers in the USA, Israel, the UK, France and Serbia, among other countries, who participated from afar, studied the material and posed their own questions as their reactions dictated. The topics discussed by the Diatopia members included their subjective experience of and their familiarization with the area, reproducing a place by means of a group project and rendering it communicable (if possible), the limits and potential of the media used and the importance of context. Last Monday, the result was presented in Athens, at the Gazon Rouge art gallery, which served as a reference point during the workshop. On the Diatopia website, the material is still changing, creating a new place, open to all thoughts and suggestions for future communication networks.