Flights of fancy take off at Gazi

The flight toward fantasy, toward creation, the future, dreams and utopia, the flight toward fantastical comics drawn on paper is the subject of the sixth annual Babel International Comics Festival, currently taking place at Athens Municipality’s Technopolis complex in Gazi through September 17. As public response has shown at the previous festivals, interest in comics and the world of comics has increased in the past few years. In the seven days during which last year’s festival was held, over 150,000 people visited the Technopolis complex. Is the progress of young Greek comic artists analogous, however? According to Efi Tzouda, one of the festival’s organizers, in the past decade there has been a real burst of activity in the field of Greek comics. The situation has settled down in the past five years and not so many new names are emerging, but the artists who are already around are even more active. The Greek creators What is the presence of Greek creators in other countries which have a tradition in comics? It’s true that Greece does not have much of a tradition in comics, says Tzouda. By contrast, we have a long tradition of sketch art. Several efforts are being made to publish things abroad, and some Greek artists, such as Botsos, Leandros and Dimitriou have a presence and can stand on an equal footing with foreign names. Greece has relatively small comic production and there are notable obstacles, such as the language. The festival, however, helps to increase the number of invitations made to Greek artists. Over 300 creators are presenting original works in the main exhibition hall, which will be accompanied by retrospective exhibits, special tributes, concerts, the video dance festival, video art exhibitions, multimedia and children’s workshops. Has people’s interest in the festival also increased their interest in comics? Is this interest reflected in the sales of comic books and magazines? The magazines have many readers, replies Tzouda. What we wanted to achieve with the festival was to pass on the atmosphere of comics through a celebration and for these celebrations to operate as opportunities for communication. Tributes to Bost and Mattotti At the sixth International Comics Festival this year there are special tributes to the work of Bost and Lorenzo Mattotti. Bost’s poorly spelt drawings and black, surrealistic humor influenced the generations which followed – and grew up in – post-civil war Greece. Original works of his, predating the dictatorship, will be presented at the festival for the first time, as well as visual and audio displays, programs of his performances and some of his personal belongings. Lorenzo Mattotti is the festival’s honored artist and there will be a presentation spanning his artistic career for the first time in Greece with the exhibition Points and Colors. Relatively unknown in Greece, Mattotti is an international artist of Italian origin who began as a comic artist, expanding to drawing, illustrations, animation and advertising. Mattotti has worked with the most important comic-publishing houses, and also draws for the New Yorker, Le Monde and fashion magazines. The poster advertising last year’s Cannes Film Festival was by him. ‘Flight’ at Technopolis The festival’s main exhibition, held in the main hall of Technopolis, is based on the theme of Flight, starting with a special tribute to Andrea Pazienza, the Italian artist who introduced many new trends in comics. Pazienza, who died in 1988, is considered the main representative of the Movement of ’77 in Italy but also of the dead-end of the 1980s, which was accompanied by violence, drugs, sex and provocation in their most extreme forms. Original works of his, as well as audiovisual material will be exhibited for the first time at the festival since his death. The Spaniard Jordi Bernet is particularly popular in Greece, with his adventures in Torpedo and Fotinis tis Nyktas (The Light of the Night), which are also published here, and his work will have a major presence at the festival. Another Spaniard is Miguel Angel Martin, the creator of the genetically modified Brian the Brain. The meaning of flight, the exhibition’s central motif, is perhaps best represented, of all the comic artists, by Paul Mavrides, one of the main figures of the alternative artistic movements in the USA. A comic artist and writer, Mavrides was part of the beat generation and a collaborator with the creator of the Freak Brothers, Gilbert Shelton. The romantic side of flight is provided by Sergio Toppi, the perspective of science fiction by Giuseppe Palumbo, the futuristic side by Francesco Ciampi, flight within the metropolis by Igort, the French artists Rochette and Jano view it through the medium of humor, while Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa combine classic adventure with cyber elements in their series Sky Doll. It has, by now, become a tradition to feature new creative comic groups at the festival and this year’s highlights are the Belgian Freon and the Italian-Spanish-Argentine team Topolin. Happenings and films Greek cartoonists who are presenting unpublished work are: Navrozidou, Dimitriou, Verykios, Zikos, Soloup, Kourtis, Botsos, Derveniotis, Zafeiratos, Vitalis, Tabakeas, Thomas, Papamichalopoulos, Tragakis and Tibaldi. There are also art events by Diamantis Aidinis, Victor Cohen, Adonis Michailides and Constantinos Dardakis. Another specialized exhibition is a tribute to the work of Vaughan Oliver, who is today considered one of the leading names in graphic design. He is the creator of the images for the 4A record label, and defines the trends in contemporary graphic arts. The exhibition is being held in collaboration with the graphic arts periodical eD. Daily events complementing the festival’s exhibitions include concerts, screenings, street performances, art events and happenings. Among these are the installation Bedroom: an Attempt at Flight from Gazi by Angelos Frantzis and Cleopatra Haritou. They have recorded the dreams of the residents of Gazi and their narratives will become collage images, words and voices creating new associations. Finally, the team Grandfather Has Died will present the happening Escape from Spinalonga (the fifth Dalton) on the search for the lost fifth cartoon brother through Brazilian soap operas and reality shows. The sixth International Comics Festival takes place at the Technopolis complex, 100 Pireos, Gazi, tel 346.7322. Opening hours: Weekdays 6 to 11 p.m. Friday to Sunday 10 a.m to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Entrance is free.

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