Synantiseis [encountering] of bodies.

Like fireflies that survive.

Eleni Tzirtzilaki, Nomadic Architecture

Walking through Fragile Landscapes, Futura, 2018


This text wishes to contribute – through symbolic artistic practices– to what is considered as nomadic art, community art within the public sphere.

The ground and its relation to the body is of great importance as far as this approach is concerned. The city is a dyamic, social space in transformation. The city is connected to the society as a whole, therefore it changes when society as a whole changes too. However, the transformations of the city are not the passive result of the global character of society, of the modifications it undergoes. The city also depends on the direct relations between the people and the groups that constitute society (Lefebvre 2007, 63).

So this question comes up: which are the ways of practicing freedom, today, in our field? What are the autonomous grounds and where are they created? How can one give space and time to new relations and to the multiple identities that emerge?

How can we create, within the city, spaces and temporalities able to produce new forms of art and life, forms that include every different identity, that offer new views within the field of politics, new methods of artistic practices that create –at the same time– multiple spacial expressions and shapes? How can these fluid spaces produce  communities and networks? Continue reading

Occupied Theater Embros: Designing and Maintaining the Commons in Athens under Crisis

An interview with Eleni Tzirtzilaki

by Ursula Dimitriou

Translated from Greek by Mary Christou

Published in “Design and Political Dissent,Spaces,Visuals,Materialities”, edited by Jilly Traganou, Routledge Research in design studies, 2021.

The Free Occupied Self-Organized Theater Embros[i] is one of several urban commons[ii] that emerged in Athens in the context of the Greek financial and social crisis.[iii]  Since that period, discussions about urban commons have become widespread among city dwellers, as it was increasingly evident that the city’s public spaces and property was treated by the state as asset ready for exploitation and threatened with enclosure. Continue reading

MEMORIA. Women in the Mountain.

AICA Hellas Theorimata 2: On History

October 1st – November 2nd 2020

EMST (National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens), Temporary exhibitions space (-1)

MEMORIA. Women in the Mountain. Notebook 1: Readings, Notebook 2: The journey, Material: Videos of the public readings.

Curator: Bia Papadopoulou

Voices through silence. In the exhibition “Theorimata on History” by AICA Hellas at the EMST, in the Temporary exhibitions space, one may find my work MEMORIA. Women in the Mountain, curated by Bia Papadopoulou. One may find there the women and their stories. They come out of a years-long silence, at an important turning-point of contemporary Greek History, the condemnation by the court of law of Golden Dawn.

The 14 women are:

Xenia or Xenoula Athanassaki, Andriani Katartzoglou, Vagelio or Vagela Kladou aka Maria, Pagona Kokovli aka Katerina, Maria or Marika Ledaki, Koula Marathaki, Maria or Mario or Marika Boraki aka Teacher, Eleni Xerogiannaki, Eleni-Nitsa Papagiannaki aka Electra, Argyro Polycrhonaki, Eleftheria Papadogianni, Georgia Skevaki aka Skevogeorgia, Antonia Trikounaki, Athina Handabi. Continue reading

Refugees walking in a dark Europe

In her article titled “We refugees”,[1] Hannah Arendt writes: “Well it is true we have had to seek refuge; but we committed no acts and most of us never dreamt of having a radical opinion”. She adds: “Even among ourselves we don’t speak of this past. Instead, we have found our own way of mastering an uncertain future. Since everybody plans and wishes and hopes, so do we”.  She concludes: “Refugees driven from country to country represent the vanguard of their peoples”. What she reveals is the conscience of the refugee throughout history. Continue reading

Migration Diary

The migration diary is the daily record of events regarding the refugee issue for one and a half month, through news releases and narratives of refugees themselves, alongside poetry excerpts. The writer follows the refugees through their routes in Idomeni, in Piraeus, in Victoria Square, in occupations of buildings in Athens, in Lesvos, in miserable places such as the camp of Moria, the plot-cemetery. The diary travels through time comparing the camp of Makronissos with modern camps where refugees live confined. Continue reading

Flesh, stone and contemporary artistic practices

by Eva Fotiadi, 2014-15

In his book Flesh and Stone, Richard Sennet has written a history of the body and the city in Western Civilization in the form of a series of studies of cities during particular moments when something happens that ‘marked a significant point in the relation between people’s experience of their own bodies and the spaces within which they live’ (Sennet 1994: 22). The book is about history, however Sennet’s motivation relates to the present. He maintains that ’the geography of the modern city, like modern technology, brings to the fore deep-seated problems in Western civilization in imagining spaces for the human body which might make human bodies aware of one another’ (Sennet 1994: 21). Continue reading

Walking on shifting grounds

by Sevie Tsampalla

This article discusses the spatial and relational practices put forth by Nomadic Architecture. It looks at how nomadism, migration and the commons, are entangled in its walking actions and translate in ways that shift our understanding of them. The thoughts take as a starting point the action “Walking the routes of the displaced”. The video documentation of the action was presented in the framework of small change, a group exhibition curated by the author at the artist-led space AirSpace gallery (UK) in 2013. 

Continue reading

About the Free self-managed Embros Theatre

As every story in capitalism, in fact, in the state of exception, it had its limits.

This text was written during a workshop regarding the “commons”, self-management as well as art and politics. The reading took place on Sunday, June 7, 2015 along with the writings of Stephanos M. and Christina T. The workshop was interrupted.

“The various forms of the “commons”, produced today, are not a prefiguration of the “communist society”, a future that we simply “must accomplish”, not “micro communisms” (such a meaning is absurd by itself). They are alternative forms of management of the social reproduction of the proletariat under capitalism, and as such they are registered into its logic, as a positive development of its own categories, even when they clearly question it and turn against it.” Continue reading

Urban voids

By Eleni Tzirtzilaki

Without a proper noun, Laura Lovatel- Federica Menin, Lupo Burtscher, Bolzano, November, 2014

The city of Athens is living in a state of exception[2], where the precarious conditions are tangible at any level in the city and where a new generation of urban voids, spaces which are abandoned on a daily basis, has increased. Abandoned plots with undefined ownership, non-utilized archaeological sites, abandoned factories, abandoned office buildings, empty shops, and abandoned public buildings such as theatres and schools are becoming more and more common. An urban void can often be an entire area, such as the one around Theatrou Square, an area called Gerani, or an entire neighbourhood like the Prosfygika buildings Complex on Alexandras Avenue.  Continue reading

A Workshop on the present state of the Urban Center of Athens

This paper was read at the Workshop on the Present State of the Urban Center of Athens , which was held at occupy Embros Theater on May 28, 2013. Participants included Constantina Theodorou, Encounter Athens, Nikos Kazeros, Eleni Tzirtzilaki, and Nikos Anastasopoulos. The Workshop was organized as part of an ongoing open discussion on the subject. Continue reading

A mapping of contrasts and conflicts in the historical centre of Athens.

Αs we discover and experience the conditions that have prevailed in the centre of Athens we are lead to look further into the specificities and oppositions that have marked the evolution of the city in recent years. We also realize that we need to act here and now.

After the Olympic games and given the absence of a program or plan to answer the pressing issues of a Mediterranean metropolis in transformation, the centre was almost abandoned to its fate. As a result, for many years now, the city has resembled a ship tossed helplessly on stormy seas. As central Athens grew in the characteristic manner of an disorder Mediterranean city, the market forces privileged the creation of entertainment zones and we saw phenomena of arbitrary and ruthless commercialization by unrestrained private developers, instead of the creation of well-planned residential areas for the middle classes. Continue reading

Together with the communities in Athens

What would better describe a human community than the tendency of its members to interact with each other on a continual basis? Martha Fleming points out the existence of many different kinds of communities: some engage in “activism” or form an “audience” or simply function as the “public” -and there are many meanings for the words I have used so far!  In order to make sense, each thing ought to be understood in its proper context. The question of “Difference” is key to these issues.

My presentation will draw on the description of the human condition (la vita activa) by Hanna Arendt and her notion of human beings as a “zoon politikon” the political animalIn referring to the common world of institutions and spaces, she explains that only through the human fabrication of such a public sphere and the ensuing transformation of the world to a community of things are we endowed with a durable arena in which citizens may come together to engage in political activity.  Special focus is placed here on “permanence, stability and durability” i.e. the qualities necessary for building communities based on a shared environment between people and across time. Continue reading

The Zombification of the Other

By Nikos Papastergiadis

In the 1970s a large graffito appeared in Melbourne: ‘Wogs Run/Turn Cogs’.
‘Wog’ was the racist name for migrants from Southern Europe, and the graffito underlined their concentration in the work force as industrial labourers, linking their identity to the function of a cog in the machine. During this period it was also commonplace for migrants to describe the location of their identity as being split between two different places. For instance, Con George claimed that the migrant’s body was severed from his imagination: ‘While his body laboriously is and remains in the country of his involuntary adoption, his mind flies back and remains in the country of his origin.’

In John Berger’s classic study of the experience of guest workers in Europe, he begins his account of their arrival as if the migrant is a somnambulist:
… his migration is like an event in a dream dreamt by another. As a figure in a dream dreamt by an unknown sleeper, he appears to act autonomously, at times unexpectedly; but everything he does—unless he revolts—is determined by the needs of the dreamer’s mind.

Berger also notes that the repetitive and exhausting gestures undertaken in the industrial workplace lead to an effect whereby the ‘body loses its mind in the gesture’. The final image he offers in this penetrating account of the splitting of the migrant’s subjectivity is that of a person trapped in a state of bereavement, a state in which ‘everything [the bereaved person] sees reminds him of what he can no longer see; and what he is reminded of becomes the essential experience, not what he sees.’

Against this now familiar immigrant lament I would pose Arnold Zable’s account of a hunger strike against the Australian government’s policy of indefinite detention by Sri Lankan refugees on Nauru Island. Zable ends his plea for understanding of the traumatic consequences of indefinite detention by drawing attention to the placards that the refugees composed in which they describe themselves as ‘living corpses … walking zombies’. Mohammed Sagar, an asylum seeker who was held for seven years in an offshore camp, explained his predicament to a journalist in these terms: ‘I don’t want to be happy, I just want my life back … whether it would be happy or sad doesn’t matter. I just want it back. I want to be alive, that’s all, because now I’m feeling like a dead living thing.’ The fantasy of release from detention is therefore bound by the desire to return to the place of the ‘living’. However, even this modest hope is presented as a chimera in refugee Richard Okao’s account of living in Melbourne, ‘which is the city of the dead for me because it is the city where I realised that I was dead; that I wasn’t living’. Amal Masry, who survived the SIEV X disaster by clinging to a floating corpse, in which 353 people drowned when a people-smuggling boat sank on its way to the Australian territory of Christmas Island. After Masry was granted residency in Australia, she visited her son who was exiled in Iran. He recorded a video interview in which, with a shudder in her voice and a trembling hand placed softly over her heart, she recalled the horror of looking into the faces of the other refugees and thinking, ‘the color of their skin was bad, they were living but they were dead, like zombies’. Continue reading