Communitism is a social experiment that began in Athens in December 2015 and will conclude in April 2018. It started as a momentary vision of one, that came to fruition collectively by approximately 55 people throughout this three year period. Our community’s goal is to run a sociocultural center, housed in a formerly abandoned cultural heritage building — one of the many existing and crumbling in the area of Metaxourghio, central Athens.
Through three annual participatory art events, we invited three different communities into early 20th century Athenian buildings and provided space and opportunities for interaction. We started with creative audience in 2016, adding local artists in 2017 and we are now bringing in international artists in 2018.
A three steps methodology has been developed for this project.
Initially, we- as creative people of Athens, came together to realize the full potential of our capabilities and experience the benefits of common space and collective work. We explored our possibilities and broadened our inspiration horizons.
Then, inspired and ready to communicate needs, we made clear that our approach will be positive and creative. We learned through practice how to develop our interdisciplinary codes while coexisting with local artists.
Finally, the communication is expanding to an international level, where we are presented with practices of the ‘other’ and expand our ability to grow in our own directions.
All of the project participants- the members of our team- have experienced one or more of these three steps and through this process navigated closer to their own truths and initiated goal fulfilling adventures.
This is the essential artistic act in which each team member has participated: The conscious decision to become part of a circle that they themselves are forming while allowing the circle to form them as well. As contemporary dervishes, we aspire for a field of shifted common practices, that we believe could shift the energy of our world.
The project has worked in two directions, both inwardly and outwardly.
Inwardly, because the Communiteam itself has, for the last 3 years, been an open laboratory of explorations of what constitutes a participatory structure and eventually how its elements can be implemented successfully on collectively managing a space for common social and cultural issues. As the three steps developed through the events, we grew rapidly, in size but also in maturity. Each event is a challenge, initially seeming much bigger than us, but after each breakthrough, we experience the magic of collective dynamics that bonds and motivates us to keep spiraling up. The theory suggested that by following the process, the team would have all the necessary assets in place for a long term plan, by the end of the project. As we near the end, we are happy to observe that the practice supports our claim.
Outwardly, the project communicates the idea of shared responsibility within the community and also explores practices in a larger scale through the events:
Communitism vol.I : Introductory event, introduced the locals to a new idea: Owners sharing their buildings in return of a healthy and standing building. Instead of losing their legacies to debt and decay, they could share responsibility and commonly save our heritage for common use, and mutually benefit from a creative way of living.This vision was the seed for a new community to develop around it.
In Communitism vol. II: Identity issues/ Does the land own you, or do you own the land? , we took the opportunity to provoke some thoughts on what once formed the contemporary local identity. Instead of the habitual stagnant criticism, we suggested that if we are to be creative, we must also establish and carry out positive ways of approaching ourselves.
Communitism vol. III : Europe was taken by a Bull states the insignificance of all theories about Europe’s or the world’s future. We are in no condition to predict all that can, or will, happen. The future can be as surreal as the myth from which the name of our continent originates. What matters is what we do: here, now, on a personal level along with the people that form our communities.
We have selected 17 projects facilitated by an international line-up of artists, collectives, cultural producers and theoreticians to interact with the building and the Communiteam. Over the two months leading up to the event the building slowly transformed. Interventions, including sensory experimentation, site specific installations and participatory performances throughout the building and neighborhood, will manifest in creative experiences, new relationships and continuing projects.
After a year of managing this building, we are now in the final stage of what an unofficial community can do in terms of building maintenance: Most of the existing infrastructures are working and most of the damaging factors have been stopped.
The building, working as our community’s mirror is now in a very vibrant stage, full of creative people reviving it daily. Six different spaces of social and artistic content are running within its spaces. However, in order to start reversing the damaging factors and actually restore the building, we will need a more efficient commitment from all interested parties: Community, building owners, local stakeholders and participants.
We will be happy to trigger more initiatives to create more and more spaces for the creative commons, as a continuation of our spiral progress. With the creation of such clusters within the city, we can actually educate ourselves on behaving communaly. The gains of our prototype will always be available to people that share our values. Our vision is to eventually impact our society on a larger scale, exceeding the expectations of what a group of people can do and make it visible on, in and around the city’s newer cultural heritage buildings.
Communitism vol.III: Europe was taken by a bull, will take place throughout the week of April 21–28, 2018 at Keramikou 28, Metaxourghio, Athens. It will be the culminating process of a two month artistic residency programme and of a three year experiment. We are looking forward to sharing with you the energy of the space, the fusion of traditional and progressive values that has developed in it, and the future plans of our community !
* The area of Metaxourghio, located right in the center of Athens, is of historical importance protected by Greek legislation due to the plethora of cultural heritage buildings most of which are abandoned. The recent local and international economic systems have rendered them into non sustainable structures, disregarding the values they bring from previous times. It is exactly these old values, that attracted in the area people seeking new meanings and practices. Over the years of the Greek crisis, an inspiring cluster of people has given this old neighborhood its own character of being like a little village with elements of both charm and desperation. It is a vibrant neighborhood and the epicenter of Greek experimental art spaces and theaters. Everything here is Do it Ourselves (DIO).
This intellectual ,bohemian crowd of people coexist with heavy substance users, a red light district, those who had to flee from the Middle East, Chinese merchants and their families working mainly in import, long time working class residents of Metaxourghio, the fairly new influx of high tech and web-based IT bysinesses, as well as the Pomaks — Greek muslims coming from the north of Greece .
We know we are in one of the most unique environments in Europe at the cross-section of the tension and possibility of divergent economic, political and cultural forces. As Athens is moving into a new, transnational era, we need to strengthen the bonds of this diverse mixture of communities into a cohesive self sustaining network that will manage the challenges this change will evoke.