Art project examines effects of movement of Balkan peoples

Memories are traces of tears» was one of the beautiful sentences in Wong Kar-Wai’s latest film «2045.» When these memories are about immigration, deportation and forgotten homelands, tears do not dry easily. But can they be transformed from a chapter of history into a lesson for the future with the help of artists? Memory workshop That was the goal of the art project «Egnatia: A Path of Exiled Memories, a Journey of Immigrants,» on display at Thessaloniki’s Yeni Tzami (Yeni Mosque) until tomorrow. The building functions as a workshop of memory for one of the largest roads in antiquity, which during the last century became a road of exile for Greeks, Turks, Albanians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Jews and many others. Groups of artists from Athens, Paris, Berlin, Istanbul and Rome have been working for a year on the «Egnatia» project, which is still under development, gathering and presenting old and contemporary testimonies of immigrants. Once completed, the project will be displayed at the Istanbul Biennale in September, while there is a possibility it might travel to the Venice Biennale. In Thessaloniki, the public had the opportunity to see a sound installation with the narratives of Greeks who left Constantinople and Turks who abandoned Thessaloniki after the exchange of populations decreed by the Lausanne Treaty, in an exhibition curated by art critic and curator Marina Fokidi. A scientific conference also took place at the Yeni Tzami last weekend, with the participation of Greek and foreign artists and scientists. One of the most interesting lectures was that of Nikos Papasteryiadis, associate professor at the University of Melbourne, who talked about the new role of artists in society, on the occasion of the work of the Stalker art group, which is participating in the «Egnatia» project. Founded in Italy, the group gradually acquired members of other nationalities and engages in social activities, such as informing the public about immigrants, recording testimonies and more. According to Papasteryiadis, many artists have by now stopped living in their isolated studios. They feel that they are citizens of the world, modern nomads who want to participate in dialogue about the great issues the world is confronting: immigration, war, illness and poverty. They see cities as living beings which develop and change; at the same time, artists have a more active part in bridging cultural and ideological differences.

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