“I believe that collective memory and individual experience, politics and personal beliefs, are interrelated,” says Yorgos Yatromanolakis, and it’s easy to see why. Born in Crete in 1986, he got into photography in December 2008 because he wanted to document the riots that broke out in Greece after a 15 year-old, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was shot dead by the police. Shot in grainy black-and-white and printed by Yatromanolakis, the resulting images were later self-published as a book, Roadblock to Normality.
“Roadblock to Normality is a small, personal, but at the same time collective notebook emanating from my participation in political and social movements in my country,” says Yatromanolakis. “It certainly captures, in a subjective way, some critical political events.”
“I consider myself a son of the European project,” says Tommaso Rada. “I am part of a generation that lived through the opening of the borders between many different countries, the introduction of the euro, and all the new cultural and linguistic mixing that the European project meant. The feeling of being Italian as well as European is the reason why I am interested in the European Union.”
Rada is now based in São Paulo, but was born in Biella in northern Italy and lived in his home country until he was 25. He watched as the policies of the EU evolved, and as the meaning of the Union began to change. His ongoing series Domestic Borders frames a number of different projects he has made, evoking the varying perspectives of those living along the borders of the member countries.
Back to South, the most recent chapter, focuses particularly on the countries that would be affected if a ‘two-speed’ Europe was implemented – a proposal in which certain members, perhaps those in better economic positions and political situations, would integrate at a faster pace, leaving the others on the periphery. Visiting the areas that would be ‘left behind’, Rada hopes to show the “challenges of living in a unique space with a different passage of time”.
Venezia graduated from university in 2016; starting life as his end-of-year project, Nekyia demonstrates the research-based direction he moved into, drawing on classical literature to explore the complex economic and political situation of modern Greece. It focuses on the river Acheron, which flows through Epirus in northwestern Greece, and is featured in classical epics such as The Odyssey, Aeneid and The Divine Comedy as the boundary between this world and the underworld. Its name literally translates as the ‘river of woe’.
“The exhibition just becomes this transition point. There will be new artwork created by the exhibition. I think that’s exciting: it means it becomes alive. These often tragic stories will continue living in other forms, whether through painting or through music, so it’s about making the exhibition a place of life and a celebration of that life,” says Giles Duley, the photographer who has spent months travelling Europe and the Middle East to document the refugee crisis with UNHCR. Taking images from his photobook, I Can Only Tell You What I See, the display will feature artists in residence, a soundscape from Massive Attack and will host an evening supper so as visitors can sit and discuss the work and the wider problems surrounding the refugee crisis.
For the thousands of migrants entering Europe, the journey of making a home in a foreign place has just begun. The work of Aikaterini Gegisian, 38, is especially relevant for those of such placelessness. Her surreal multi-national collages form a seven-chapter narrative in her 2015 book A Small Guide to the Invisible Seas. Gegisian was one of 18 artists to exhibit in the Armenian pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, which won the Golden Lion at the Biennale’s awards for Best Country. The exhibition, Armenity, is set apart from the main body of the art festival, on an island called San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a 20-minute boat from the mainland across the lagoon. Its distance from the bustle of Venice neatly reflects the exhibition’s theme of a diasporic people – those who have been forcibly moved from, or have had to flee, their original homeland and scattered across the globe. Being situated in the island, inside a monastery, compounds the exhibition’s overriding sense of being adrift. In the Middle Ages, the Mekhitarist Monastery …
Petros Koublis has responded to Greece’s economic crisis by focusing his lens on the countryside surrounding Athens. For him, exploring his homeland’s natural landscape was the instinctual way to reflect on and probe the effects of the financial crisis, he says. The idea for In Landscapes came to him in November 2012, and was born from a personal need to explore “the difficult times we’re going through today”. He explains: “I wanted to avoid the narrative of violence and its graphic representation in news reports. The landscapes provided me with an abstract language through which I was not only able to emotionally express the crisis of our days with dignity, but also reach for something universal.” In doing so, Koublis hoped to emphasise the differences between nature and the city, and also touch upon how the beauty of nature can provide solace in turbulent times. “The series is an evaluation of our lives, the need for an escape, and the despair of not knowing exactly where to turn,” he says. “Nature provides a way out, an escape …
On 25 January Greece goes to the polls, for a snap election called when the parliament failed to select a new president at the end of 2014. It looks like Syriza, the far-left, anti-austerity party has the clear lead, and the outgoing prime minister, Antonis Samaras of the centre-right New Democracy party, has described the vote as a referendum on Europe. Whatever the outcome, the economic crisis of the last five years, and the austerity measures put in place in 2010 after the IMF/Eurozone’s €110 billion bailout loan, have radically changed the country. Greece has been in recession for six years and around 3.9m people – more than one third of the population – now live below the poverty line. At the peak of the crisis unemployment stood at 25%, rising to 60% among the young; now an estimated 50% of young people are unable to find work (figures taken from The Guardian’s report). These figures are comparable to America’s Great Depression of the 1930s and have left a visible mark on the landscape, as Georgios Makkas’ series The Archeology of Now shows. “Tens of …