GreekTV followed Beforelight art collective during their process of creating a light installation in an abandoned building arcade, reusing old commercial light signs. The video documents the project from start to the final outcome and shows the impressive transformation.

The signs remain a hallmark of a past intense commercial activity.

Walking around Αthens, in neighborhoods such as Koukaki, Exarhia, Kypseli or Pagkrati, small shops sit next to one other.   If you look up you will notice old light signs not working, but still hanging. Some of them are really old, from the 60’s or the 70’s. The shop owner may have gotten his or her pension, but keeps the sign up for old time’s sake. Most of them are still hang outside of shops that closed during the crisis. The signs remain a hallmark of a past intense commercial activity. They are also excellent examples of sign craftsmanship, from an era where most fonts and shapes where created by hand.

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The idea for making this video sparked after the Rockefeller Foundation declared resilience as one of the necessary factors for a city to survive a crisis and grow within the challenges of the 21st century. Athens has made it, because independent citizen initiatives and creative forces have responded to it quickly, rejuvenating spaces and truly thinking outside the box. Athens offers a great example of resilience through the transformation of a vacant shopping passage (inside the Merchant’s fund building), in downtown Athens, close to Syntagma square, into an open museum of light signs and a cluster of creativity. Τhe organizing team Traces of Commerce funded by the City of Athens, have opened the passage shops to artists, and they have invited Beforelight light art group to find an original way to light-up the passage.

Athens offers a great example of resilience.

BEFORELIGHT is a Greek-based creative group which has been formed to experiment and create with light. It is the first and the only collective to deal with light art in Greece and whose activity has been published in international journals of light art and design. Their interventions in the public space have transformed abandoned spaces into new landmarks. Beforelight group members started a safari in Athens’ neighborhoods to find old light signs and their owners.

Every light sign had its history and personality: From the old time classic “Τσιγάρα, Ψιλικά, Χαρτικά” that you will encounter in every street corner of the neighborhood, to the busy “Φωτοαντίγραφα” that wears more than 50 small flashing bulbs (so as not to be missed!), to the collectible “Kalkhoff Ποδήλατα Δυτικής Γερμανίας”. The signs were gathered in an open workshop, under the passage, in order to be cleaned and repaired. Later, they were hanged over the passage, giving it new light and consequently new life. The project was revealed to the public during an opening night last June and since then, it remains an illuminating destination for people visiting downtown Athens.