NEWS

Organizers opt for cultural consumerism

«When it comes down to it, the Megaron is something like the Athens Festival in winter. It doesn’t produce, but sells cultural products. It doesn’t create culture, it produces consumers of culture,» said a Kathimerini interviewee, in an answer to the question in the previous section. «We all know,» somebody else said, «that historically, neither buildings nor peddlers of art lead to creativity, more culture or a larger audience. It’s the people that do that: the orchestras, theater companies and dance groups. «For example, what is the Vienna Musikverein? A shell, a beautiful shell. But the concert-going public is not created by the shell, but by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which inhabits, warms and breathes life into this shell.» In Greece, this interlocutor went on to say, «We believe that buildings can operate in a vacuum, without long-term residents to give it life.» The Megaron believes, he added, that it can function like a festival, putting on every kind of performance with any kind of performer, in a pageantry of eclecticism. «But it’s one thing to have this kind of melange and quite another to develop a culture over time through a relationship with an orchestra, a theater company, a dance group or with the public. The public is educated together with its educator, not separately. No public in the world has matured through bookings, foreign orchestras, foreign operas and foreign theater companies. «A city audience rises in conjunction with its own artistic ensembles. They are its very own spawn.» From this point of view, what the Megaron offers culturally may be less important than what might come to exist if local artistic ensembles – KOA, the GNO and the Thessaloniki State Orchestra – received staunch and decisive backing. Not only is this not the case, but they have been left further exposed to the hammer blows of unfair competition by the Athens Concert Hall. How can KOA stand up to the incessant bookings of major orchestras at the Megaron? How is it possible for the GNO not to be brought to its knees by the growing operatic activities of the Athens Concert Hall? (With the opening of the Triantis Hall, these are expected to grow.) «This is all happening because in Greece it is much easier to build a huge building, helped by the Community Support Framework, than to build an orchestra. That’s because orchestras, which are ensembles that generate culture and shape public taste, are the product of time,» a director said. «The question is, what do we want as a country? Culture or consumers of culture? Greece, up to now, as in the economy, has opted for the role of middleman, not that of producer, creator, sower, cultivator. Is this the culture we want?» Creating the audience This is what culture is not. «An authentic audience is created,» one interviewee remarked, «when something, or someone doing something, spurs it to attend and to participate. When there is a (Karolos) Koun who does something, or an orchestra, a theater company, a dance group… The audience is exposed to the possibility of being shaken by a meeting. A concert or a performance is a meeting. It’s a change of air. That’s what we artists do… change the atmosphere, place and time for people. It’s we who create this, it’s not created only by shells.» That’s exactly what we await from the State: to support artistic bodies, that is people, instead of ditching them in favor of creating ultra-modern, but empty shells. The new government should immediately move both the GNO and KOA to their natural home: the Athens Concert Hall. The latter, in any case, has ample space and time to engage in its own valuable activities.