Athens 2017 - Contested Cities


Ancient Greek Drama and Urban Studies provide a stimulating cross-fertilisation. Each discipline offers complementary analysis, invigorating epistemological reflections about disclosing a mutual conjunction. Such intersections are highly thought-provoking and inspiring both for research and/or artists: conventional, religious, ritual, political, tragic theatre of the 5th century BC is analysed side by side with critical academic voices that seek for in-depth analysis of the current socio-spatial dynamics that dramatically shape our cities.

Each seminar consists of a lecture provided by well-established urban researchers from Spain and the UK, followed by a constructive presentation of a discussant who is specialist in ancient drama, with references to the philosophy and sociology of Ancient Greek Theatre, as well as to staging and dramaturgical analysis. We aim at developing an essential dialogue between urban studies and ancient Greek drama. The concepts to be developed in the seminars are the following:

–          Urban agendas and governance

–          City, the citizen and citizenship

–          Belonging and alienation

–          Displacement, power and conflicts

–          Community and the collective

–          Mythology and tradition

The workshops correlate thematically with the seminars. They will put in practice the theoretical discussions through interventions developed in the public space in Athens. Workshops will be led by practitioners and artists from the UK, Germany and Spain/Portugal with an outstanding trajectory on the proposed methodologies and contents.



Seminar 1 – Wednesday, 20th September 2017, 18.30-20.30

Title: DIS_PLACED – The loss of place, home and identity

Presenter: Dr Michael Janoschka, University of Leeds (UK)

Displacement is a violent spatial, economic, political, symbolic and psychological act related to: (i) the practice of displacing, (ii) the condition of being displaced and (iii) the feeling as not being at the right place. It encompasses various forms of enclosures that emerge as a consequence of social and spatial dispossessions. Being the main outcome of such exercise of power in place, it affects our perception of who we are, how we move and act in the city and where we belong to. This is why it may be considered as the potentially most important mechanism of how our daily life is shaped by others. The vulnerable, the people without economic and political voice have now been displaced from specific areas of the city, to be replaced by individuals and consumers serving the needs of the neoliberal reconstruction of the city. However, displacement is inherent to every place and society, and it may be conceptualised through contemporary social and urban theory as well as through ancient drama. In this regard, the seminar will explore the conceptual links between the modes of being displaced that can be observed in the contemporary city and those epitomised in ancient drama, when the displaced were those exiled from the democracy of the polis of Athens, struggling to survive the lack of civil rights in hostile environments. Has this hostility become part of the contemporary city? Who is actually experiencing civic rights and may be considered a citizen?


Seminar 2 – Friday, 22nd September 2017, 18.30-20.30

Title: Power and place – an insidious interplay

Presenter: Dr Georgia Alexandri, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)

Absolute power entrusted to one person (a king) has always been challenged in ancient drama. The evolving theme of absolute power, conceit and subsequent downfall highlights the importance of democracy, identifying the need to evade rigid forms of community organisation and governance. Eventually, in the ancient drama, absolute power becomes a crucial characteristic of cities beyond Athens, a place highly envisioned as the city of democracy. The way that cities are governed today, in absolute and rigid ways, scarcely tackling with the actual needs of the citizens. Urban politicians and policy makers prefer to align with the norms of mathematic models of economic growth, to comply with financial rules, and eventually to rescale power to political institutions such as the EU and the IMF, withdrawing from the ideal of democracy. At the very local level, the persistence with economic practices, the need to precede exchange values to use value and the importance of the construction of new exchange values out of existing use and exchange values promote speculation in space which is often linked to displacement. Such absolute power in space is actually exercised by the imposition of the better off, of more productive and profitable uses and the displacement of less profitable ones. Accordingly, the re-invention of former deprived areas goes hand in hand with the displacement of the deprived; exercising a kind of colonialism at the local level through various forms of gentrification and financialisation. This seminar will discuss a series of questions related to the described dilemmas, i.e.: Which will be the nemesis in the neoliberal “barbaric” city? How is space reinvented? What can we understand from inner city transformations? Who is being expulsed and for the shake of whom? Who is orchestrating politically and economically regeneration? What is colonialism at the local level?


Seminar 3 – Monday, 25th September 2017, 18.30-20.30

Title: Space Invaders: Making and (re)claiming the commons

Presenter: Professor Paul Routledge, University of Leeds (UK)

Challenging dominant constructions of power and acting for justice, like Antigone on the burial of her brother, is a theme rooted in the history of social movements and art collectives such as the theatre of the oppressed. To counterbalance dispossession, grassroots across the world challenge dominant power relations by developing three forms of power; (i) relational power which is the terrain of individuals and groups engaging in temporary, ad hoc relations, where spaces of social media and loose networks work to create calls for public mobilisations (ii) compositional power which provides space for the creation of common spaces of activity and protest and (iii) organisational power where the capacity to mobilise and organise is channelled into the terrain of formal organisations or networks which produce, distribute and manage material and immaterial resources and symbols. Together these forms of power constitute the ‘popular power’, i.e. the capacity of marginalised folk to organise and coordinate structures to govern their own lives, thereby creating new social relations and forms of collective organization. This popular power is able to produce an interplay between feelings of place (the gathering, the demonstration, the theatre) and feelings out of place (the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army in the U.K.; LGBTQ activism; Pussy Riot actions across Europe). In addition, popular power is manifested as ‘making space’: movements actively shape places – e.g. by physically transforming the character of, or meanings associated with them  – creating not only sites of resistance, but also places where alternative imaginaries and symbolic challenges can be made ‘real’. In so doing movements defy everyday assumptions about the meaning and function of particular places and the ‘appropriate’ type of emotions evoked by them.


Workshop 1 – Thursday, 21st September 2017, 18.00-21.00

Theme: Displacement

Organiser: Dr Nicholas Salazar Sutil, University of Leeds (UK)

The workshop will involve a series of psycho-geographies to be conducting in key areas in the city of Athens. Participants will be given “creative” maps of the city, and will be asked to follow the map’s instructions, with the aim to identify and collect written material in the form of graffiti, pamphlets, notice boards and other “messages” that may reflect a mood of displacement. The material (in the form of pictures, drawings, post-it notes) will be collated and then placed on a “Wailing Wall” at the Cacoyannis Foundation.


Workshop 2 – Saturday, 23rd September 2017, 18.00-22.00

Title: The Trojan Horse

Organiser: Left Hand Rotation (Lisbon, Portugal)


The Phoenician Horse of Parnassus assembled, by the arts of Palas, a horse swollen with armed men and introduced the deadly image inside the walls. The men who will come from inside, they will name it the wooden horse, a concealer of hidden spears.”

Euripides, The Trojans, 10.

Part of the difficulties of articulating practices of resistance to gentrification are due to the symbolic and aesthetic apparatus that gentrification deploys. For the neighbours of a neighbourhood previously abandoned by the state, the arrival of investment and structural improvements is often perceived as an offering, a gift. Gentrification is always disguised as culture, progress and rehabilitation. But when it comes out of the wooden horse, it will cause displacement to the neighbours and transform the neighbourhood. Having as a starting point of the idea and the myth of the Trojan horse, reflecting on the tragedy of the Trojan women, we will analyze gentrification as a destructive deception. Gentrification is something apparently pleasant that brings along serious consequences. Together with the participants of the workshop we will articulate a practice in the public space that helps to unveil the fraud of gentrification, like Laocoön intended to do with the Trojan horse before it crossed the walls of Troy.


Workshop 3 – Tuesday, 26th September 2017, 18.00-22.00

Title: Sound in the city

Organiser: Rouven Rech (Berlin, Germany)

This workshop aspires to develop nuanced understandings about the commons, mainly through the observation and analysis of the sounds of Athens; an interactive search for different soundscapes and pictures (video and/or photography) in the city. Participants will look for “hot spots” of NOISE and SILENCE in the city and collectively develop understandings of displacement and gentrification in various neighbourhoods (for example traffic junctions, neighbourhoods, malls, bars, nightclubs etc). As example a small part of the documentary VECINOS (60 min. 2004, Dir. Rouven Rech), where “poor” and “rich” areas are narrated with artistic patterns will be projected and discussed.

The collected material sounds, videos and stills may be used as material for the video installation for the performance. In this installation the settled meanings of noise, silence, harmony and restlessness should be contested and re-signified, i.e., through the lens of producing the commons. What does harmony mean, what does silence provoke?