Looking back over the last years, site-specific art has increasingly challenged not only visual but also performance artists as it engages them to unlock alternative models of artistic production and intervention in public or private spaces. At the same time, it expands the spectator’s awareness of the surrounding environment engaging him into a new way of thinking our difference and our isolation, as individuals and as citizens living in the same, heterogeneous urban landscape.
The transgression of social and cultural boundaries being one of the main challenges of X Apartments project, this debate aims to open a critical discussion about the possibilities of socially engaged art to unveil contemporary controversies and homogenized perceptions of human geographies. The fifteen site-specific creations by Greek and international artists coming from the field of performing and visual arts, cinema and architecture, demonstrate X Apartments’ desire to bring Athens’s fragmented community on a virtual “common space” (however partial and provisional). Having been inspired and conceived especially for private spaces with the collaboration of the inhabitants, those interdisciplinary interventions are mapping in a way central areas in Athens which are at the epicenter of political and social turbulences since the beginning of the crisis.
Can an artistic project reframe the everyday living condition without contributing to tendencies of gentrification? Which are the perspectives and the limits of socially engaged artistic works? Should innovative artistic practices interweave with political issues? Can public art lead spectators to an active participation in the civil society? Could we think of an art that is not socially or politically engaged without returning to the modernist dogma of the self-referential work of art?
Shannon Jackson: Director of the Arts Research Center and Goldman Professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Balme: Professor of Theatre Studies, University of Munich and President of the International Federation for Theatre Research
Scientific oversight and coordination:
Dr Katia Arfara: Artistic Director of the Theatre and Dance Department at the Onassis Cultural Centre
With the artist and collaborators of X Apartments
Organisation: Goethe-Institut Athen and Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens
The conversation is held in English with simultaneous translation into Greek.
Christopher Balme currently holds the chair in theatre studies at the University of Munich and is president of the International Federation for Theatre Research. He was born and educated in New Zealand where he graduated from the University of Otago. He has lived and worked in Germany since 1985 with positions at the universities of Würzburg, Munich and Mainz. From 2004 to 2006 he held the chair in theatre studies at the University of Amsterdam. Recent publications include Decolonizing the Stage: Theatrical syncretism and postcolonial drama
, (Oxford, 1999), Pacific Performances: Theatricality and Cross-Cultural Encounter in the South Seas
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Studies
(Cambridge University Press, 2008) and The theatrical public sphere
(Cambridge University Press, 2014). His current research interests focus on the legacy of modernism in the globalization of the arts; theatre and the public sphere; the relationship between media and performance.
Shannon Jackson is Director of the Arts Research Center and Goldman Professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics
(Routledge, 2011), Professing Performance: Theatre in the Academy from Philology to Performativity
(Cambridge University Press, 2004), Lines of Activity: Performance, Historiography, Hull-House Domesticity
(University of Michigan Press 2000), and forthcoming from M.I.T. Press, The Builders Association: Performance and Media in Contemporary Theater
. Currently she is creating an edited collection of keywords in contemporary art and performance in collaboration with the Pew Center for Art and Heritage, and is working on a book on cross-art coalition with the working title, The Way We Perform Now
. Jackson has received many honors, including a 2015 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.
Katia Arfara is an Athens-based researcher, writer, teacher and curator. She holds an MA in theatre studies (Athens University) and a PhD in art history (Sorbonne University). Her essays at the crossroads of performing and visual arts have appeared in various journals and critical anthologies. She has lectured extensively in France and Greece. Dr Arfara is a associate researcher at the Centre for the History and Theory of the arts (EHESS, Paris). Since 2009 she has been the theater and dance artistic director at the Onassis Cultural Center. She is the author of the book Théâtralités contemporaines