CULTURE

Olympic Athens comes alive with artwork

Don’t be surprised if, while you’re walking around the city center during the Games, you suddenly trigger a motion sensor that throws up a screen depicting everyday life inside an apartment building, see your silhouette mirrored on the blank wall of a building, light up a meadow of lights or see a ray of light flashing across Lycabettus Hill at 1,000 km/hour. You’ve not become trapped in some science-fiction fantasy, but in your stroll around Athens have participated inadvertently in an expansive mixed-media art project provided by the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC). The interactive installations and other projects, designed by a group of Greek and foreign artists, will embellish five routes around the city with lights, sounds, colors, balloons and banners. «Catch the Light: Routes through Athens» casts a different light on the city and invites visitors and residents to abandon their cars and public transport and view the capital on foot. Films and city life The old commercial strip between Aghion Asomaton Square and Omonia and from Aeolou Street to Monastiraki is the setting of the first walk. Dimitris Tzamouranis and Kathrin Lind have created a double-screen installation showing scenes from old and new films on the facades of buildings along the way. In Koumoundourou Square, just off Pireos Street near Omonia, Dimitris Kozaris presents «Living in Athens,» which consists of scenes from life in an apartment building that are triggered by passers-by. Interactive The next route explores Athens under ground, the city as it emerges among antiquities and the lines of the electric railway and metro. On the recently pedestrianized section of Ermou Street, near the site of the Kerameikos ancient cemetery, Takis Zerdevas and Makis Faros have resurrected the air of an old Athens taverna. A short walk further east, to the Thiseion train station, the interactive platform «Lot Architecture» is triggered by the public: their footsteps are illuminated and a gush of cool air blown in their direction. Up Ermou to Kapnikarea Square brings you to Maurice Benaymoun’s «Watch Out! The Eyes of the City,» which shows the public’s eyes staring out over one of the busiest sections of central Athens. Words of the bards On a different note, a large, open-air book will open its pages in the center of town, where the great educational and cultural centers of 19th century Athens first made their appearance. Along Panepistimiou Street, surfaces such as shop windows, arcades and screens have been used to display the verses and texts of great Greek poets and writers such as Nikos Karouzos, Costas Karyotakis, George Seferis and Angelos Sikelianos, as well as quotes by Lord Byron and Virginia Wolf that refer to Athens. At the same time, a light that plays with the shadows of passers-by will be screened on the facade of a building on Korai Square. This is «Light and Strive,» an interactive installation by Michael Hoepfel. These projects are linked with the buildings of the National Library, the Athens Academy and the University of Athens. Feast for the ears The only non-visual route of the art project is a journey of sounds along Kavallioti Street in Koukaki to the pedestrianized roads of Dionysiou Areopagitou and Apostolou Pavlou in Thiseion. Different sounds from theatrical and musical shows embrace visitors as they walk past each site on what is the most beautiful promenade of Athens, right at the foot of the Acropolis. Paul Matisse, with his «Olympic Bell,» across from the Observatory, is a striking reminder that the walk is all about tuning into sounds. Further up, J. Meejin Yoon needs the public’s participation to activate her installation «White Noise / White Light,» which comprises a «meadow» of lights and sounds that are activated when someone steps on the platform. Portraits Photographic portraits of anonymous Athenians, as well as the images of well-known personalities in the arts and culture, will adorn approximately 46 buildings in the city center and the fence around the National Gardens along Vassilissis Sofias and Amalias Street. In the evening, the open space of Rizari, along Vassilissis Sofias, will show screenings of famous Greeks, such as Sikelianos, Mitropoulos, Callas, Seferis and Hadjidakis. The photographs have been selected and curated by Vangelis Ioakeimidis, the director of the Skopellos Photography Center, while 31 photographers have also taken part in the project. Another feature of the same walk is the impressive «Athens Olympic Meteor» by Mitch Benoff, which is a beam of light that plays at 1,000 km/hour across Lycabettus Hill.