Fulbright alumna and media artist, Sakina Abdus Shakur, talks to GreekTV about her new project. the—absurd is a blog that offers the world a glimpse into conversations with young artists in Athens, Greece. Featured on Sakina’s site is jeweler, industrial designer, and winner of Vodafone’s competition for exhibition space in the Athens Romantso building, Spiros Emilios Tzimas, who shares with us his experiences as an artist in Athens.
When Sakina Shakur returned to Athens from Philadelphia on a Fulbright Scholarship last September, it was her third time living in Greece in the last three years. She saw Athens as an honest city. Unsettled by the disconnect between what she knew from her personal relationship to this place and the rhetoric of the financial crisis, Sakina began a creative voyage through questions of integrity and representation.
As part of her Fulbright project, Sakina spent the year having conversations with 20 something artists in Athens and sharing with the world some of what she saw as the spirit of the city. Over coffee with dancers, poets, actors, performance artists, sculptors, and musicians, Sakina engaged in conversations about life— about making art, making a living, and pursuing personal passions. “We would often play around with ideas until we found the right words,” says Sakina. She filmed the meetings and later created over 40 short videos, one minute or less, that best encapsulated the essence of the conversations. “My goal was to keep the integrity of the words spoken. If the soundbite was a complete statement, that’s what I would edit.”
“Beyond the politics of Greece, at its heart, this project is about conversation… As conversations require open listening, cooperation and trust, conversations can also create compassionate thinking.”
the—absurd, a new blog and living gallery, is the outcome of her work. With the collaborative effort of the young artists, Sakina has uniquely captured a spark of Athens, displaying some of the city’s vibrant street art and sharing with the world some of the heart and mind of its creative young generation. “‘It’s absurd’ means ‘It’s impossible’ but also ‘It’s contradictory,’ ” wrote Albert Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, whose story Sakina used as the starting point for her project.
According to Sakina: “the cultural climate of the financial crisis suggests that young people in Athens are not the inheritors of resources. This makes the 20 something Athenian artist the perfect image of an absurd person. What makes them ‘absurd’ is, that instead of accepting what the world says they have, this lack of inheritance and being paralyzed by fear, they choose to create! Once someone learns to create, they can be the active creators of their own lives. An artist’s work, once shared with others, can inspire creation or inspire others to see new worlds— or new possibilities.”
The aim of this project is to tell stories, not necessarily the ‘truth.’ “ Everyone loves stories,” says Sakina. “They show us that we have the same emotions but in different contexts.” the—absurd is the result of this effort where Sakina hopes, through her conversations with young artists, to share their stories with the world, breaking down borders and cutting the distance between people. “Beyond the politics of Greece, at its heart, this project is about conversation, and how we can never summarize a human through a photograph, media headline, stereotype, or soundbite. As conversations require open listening, cooperation and trust, conversations also can create compassionate thinking.”
Spiros Emilios Tzimas is one of the 20 something artists featured in the—absurd, where he speaks about the importance of interconnectivity and working together as a whole in order to identify problems rather than fighting against one another.
He often discusses with his friends how art is going through a disappointing phase— it has to look good and be smart. “People are using their brains and not their souls,” says Spiros. “It can be smart, it can be fantastic, but without this element, art is not real. Everyone does this because of course you need to make money. And if you’re making money from your art, you have to make sacrifices.”
Spiros discusses how unlike the artists in Athens who create performance art or installations that do not last or sell, artists in New York know how to make good items for purchasing. “But if you create art having in mind that your goal is to sell, you are putting a boundary on what you can and cannot do. Art shouldn’t have that boundary.”
Spiros and a friend recently put together “do-it-yourself” pamphlets for creating art— the result is something you would find at IKEA. “Anyone can do it,” he says. “In this way, we are making fun of art. It is a way to express anger but at the same time it’s humor.”
Before Spiros started studying at the Athens School of Fine Arts five years ago, he went to school to become a jeweler. Before that, he had plans to become a carpenter. His parents encouraged him to further explore his talents but he lacked the confidence: “Who was I to do fine art?”
Spiros is in his final year at the Athens School of Fine Arts and just landed a spot in the Romantso building to showcase his art after winning a Vodafone contest where, starting September 27, he has a space for 8 months to showcase his jewelry.
“One of my projects at Romantso is redefining the idea of what jewelry is. I want to play around and have fun with it. I like the idea of ephemerality. People obsess that diamonds last forever but even they don’t. Why can’t we appreciate things for a small time, maybe even for 24 hours? It would be beautiful. I want to make jewelry like this. Maybe clean out an orange and wear it for the day. It smells nice, it has a vibrant color…”
A series of his rings are made of wood and shaped as different geometric forms, like microcosms. And the geometric shapes spin! “Why not make it a game?,” asks Spiros. This line of jewelry is currently exhibited in the Benaki museum in Athens, a success he speaks of nonchalantly.
Spiros is looking forward to the Romantso space where he can take advantage of learning from others. “There will be a lot of people there, including designers. Even though I have almost finished with the degree, there is still so much to learn. That I will never get tired of— asking questions and learning new things. It’s like the more you know, the more you know how little you know.