City at a Time of Crisis

 

 

Tracing and researching crisis-ridden urban public spaces

in Athens, Greece.

What could a research project titled “The City at a Time of Crisis: Transformations of Public Spaces in Athens” possibly mean today? And why should it specifically ponder over public space? Today, Greece is going through a period of extreme transformations. These transformations are marked by the material and symbolic results of what one could roughly call the debt crisis. Their effects on a social level are more than catastrophic. The dissolution of the public health system, extreme cuts in wages and pensions, drastic increase in taxation, dismantling of the public education system, sky-rocketing of the unemployment indexes, a rapid decrease of the average consumer power, create a condition that violently dismantles all that was socially a given to date. It is by now evident that social balances are rapidly transformed and that along with them change the ways in which people had learned to communicate to date. Obviously, these changes do not leave the city untouched – both in terms of its shape and its function. And public space is at the heart of these changes. On its own, urbanity comprises a particular way of communication. It is a unique way in which to articulate and to record meanings. A way that drastically changes at the present moment.

“The space that remains” comprises an attempt to explore the transformations of the public space of Athens at the time of crisis. But it will grasp at incomprehensible remnants. It wishes to ponder over the most devalued of lives and to seek out those whose horizon had always been the one set by the current crisis. Or those who originate from the crisis’ darkest corner. It will walk along “devalued” streets and it will attempt to eavesdrop unheard screams. And it will wonder about the toll of a stroll within this space’s confined limits. “The space that remains” appears little in face of all hopes and all dreams. It would wish to be a transit stop. But it stands there, harsh and literal. Tight and forced to “host”. This space will tell us about the authority of meaning. And how this can only be articulated through lines on the ground; lines that are invisible, yet strict. And then again, it will tell us about some bodies that learned to avoid those lines and for others that love to draw them. But this space has its time, too. It will probably avoid telling us about the future. And it will nostalgically bend over its past. But more than anything, it will tie itself onto its somber present, cramped and nerveless; unable to comprehend how so little of it remained. Sometimes it will find solace and other times it will shine in its foibles. At its best, it will dress up with carefree trails. At its bleak, it will dress into winter. And winter is like a curfew that has never been declared...

 

 

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Funded by

Partner Institution

About Us

City at the Time of Crisis is a research project tracing and researching the effects of the ongoing financial crisis on urban public spaces in Athens, Greece. Read more...