Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On Being Greek

Tilefono © Petros Efstathiadis

Petros Efstathiadis and I met through our shared experiences with the POC project a few years ago. I never imagined that he would later be the key to securing my future here in the UK. Immigration laws are constantly changing, they are "too soft" in the UK, said the media. After living and working here for over 5 years I didn't expect that the UK Home Office would ask me to leave the country when my visa expired.

Canon © Petros Efstathiadis

I took the route of seeking Greek citizenship, as my father has Greek roots. Petros had done all the ground work for me in Greece, as I don't read, write or speak Greek. Finally we got all the documents. The plan was simple: try to get into Athens with an expired Argentinean passport and apply there for a Greek ID, that meant I could become a European citizen. It wasn't difficult to get into Greece, I was really lucky, it was more difficult to get out of the UK.

Soldier © Petros Efstathiadis

My inside man was waiting for me in Argos, a small town, which he told me would make it easier to do the paperwork than in the bigger cities and gave me somewhere to crash in his home. After we put the form into the local police office we had to wait a few days to find out if I could get back to England to my normal life. My time spent there put real context to Petro's work, which I had always considered as a good representation of Greece's role within the EU, from the perspective of the younger generation.

Bomb 1 © Petros Efstathiadis

His sculptures and sets are created through an array of raw materials he finds in the village where he grew up, Liparo. Once documented, he dissembles them and the photograph is all that remains. His performances seem like a playful representation of the different experiences of the villagers, their dreams, ambitions, hope and failures… they tell us the stories of everyday life in a Balkan country. A bit different of my perception of what it is to be European. As he told me: " My village represents what my country really is. Greece is a Mediterranean country, but not western European, that's for sure. The European suit doesn't fit us."

Bomb 3 © Petros Efstathiadis

With his series 'Bombs' he explores the modern paranoia played out in our society. Where there is an underlying frustration experienced by the youth culture to the expectations and misplaced values of roles in society. There was a time that the riots in Greece were a spectacle for the media. Petrol bombs everywhere, Athens was on fire. But the bombs that Petros creates are like children's toys, they reflect war and fear, yet are completely harmless, a powerful and pacific response to the absurdity that we have got ourselves into in this period of general global confusion. Where free market economists without regulation or rigorous research into the effects of their new policies have gambled globally with disastrous effects.

Bomb 7 © Petros Efstathiadis

This same naivety or absurdity is symbolic in Petros work. After an intense week with Petros, the police approved my passport. I am now officially Greek. In our excitement we organized an impromptu celebration in the local bar with a slide show of our work. Immersed in our mutual expression, we were oblivious to the disengaged audience going about their daily ritual of a casual beer and a chat amongst friends.

Seba Kurtis (Foam Magazine #25/Traces)


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