CULTURE

Babel’s comics festival starts September 10

Babel’s seventh international comics festival is changing location but not character. It has moved from the Gasworks in Gazi, where it has been held the past few years, further east, to the new Stratou Park on Katehaki Street. Though the post-industrial setting of the former gas factory suited the festival to perfection, the difficulty of reaching agreement with the City of Athens led to the choice of a new site. According to a Babel representative, the conditions set by the municipality were prohibitive. But the good news is that the refurbishment of a former army camp on Katehaki has made large, roofed spaces available in the old stone dormitories (the main hall is twice the size of the main hall at Gazi), while the environment is more pleasant. The lawn, freshly watered by recent rain, is a pleasant place to relax in between events. The festival opens September 10 with a busy program. As usual, the festival combines the leading expressions of youth culture – music, video art, dance, visual arts and spontaneous art – but the focus is on comics. This year’s major exhibition is dedicated to Argentine Josef Munoz, whose comics are published all over the world. His most popular work is a series about the detective Alack Sinner. His work combines high visual quality with a powerful plot that is a mixture of adventure and speculation. The exhibition includes originals of his comics, illustrations and paintings. The main group exhibition is dominated by the cult figure Tanino Liberatore, best known for his «Ranxerox,» an adventure set in Rome of the future. Then comes American Joe Sacco, a multi-award-winning artist who established reportage comics with a series of albums about the war in Yugoslavia and the Palestinian situation. Marane Satrapi from Iran, whose comics are primarily autobiographical, talks about the position of women in the inhumane, theocratic regime in her country. Work by popular French artist Baru and by two of the most important representatives of the younger generation of comics in Europe, Gipi and Marco Corona, will be present at the festival in Athens. Gipi is notable for his impressive drawing, strong colors and plot lines where his heroes search for romance in an era that forbids it. Marco Corona, who produces rougher drawing and narratives, gave underground comics a tremendous boost when he won international recognition with his biography of artist Frida Kahlo. The main exhibition is framed by the presentations of two leading magazines (the Italian Frigidaire and the American World War III Illustrated). Greek artists Soto Anagno, Thomas Vallianatos, Dimitris Vitalis, Costas Vitalis, Spyros Derveniotis, Christos Dimitriou, Andreas Zafeiratos, Petros Zervos, Giorgos Botsis, Constantinos Papamichaloupolos, Soloup and Ilias Tabakeras have created strips based on the subject of «Woman: The Other Half of Heaven,» the main theme of this year’s festival. Artist Katerina Barabouti will set up her installation, «Journey Inside» and Agis Kelpekis will do paintings on the exterior walls. As part of the comics festival, the Thessaloniki Cinema Festival will present VideoDance, with screenings of videos of significant dance performances. Music is an integral part of the festival with concerts every night, with the emphasis on Greek musicians, including: Earthbound, Purple Overdose, Invisible Surfers, Idiorhythmon, Soul Fingers, Apeftheias Syndesi, Attico Minus, Shaman’s Way, Green Onions, 700 Machines and Doctor Vodkatini.