ZH: Actually the whole idea of A-DASH is one that evolved collaboratively and it still does. The initial thought belongs to the three other artists: Noemi, Eva and Catriona. All three of them had come to Athens for a residency (Snehta). Catriona had already settled in two years ago and Noemi and Eva had decided to do the same but finding a space also for working and possibly exhibiting. In search of such a space I proposed a listed neoclassical building that was left vacant for the last 6 years. Obviously, there was a lot of renovation needed to be done with a very tight budget, which led us to opt for the solution of crowdfunding. Surprisingly enough we succeeded in gathering the amount that would allow us to make the basic repairs. Renovation suggested not simply efficient teamwork between us but involved many others e.g. builders, architects, friends, interns, as major repairing works needed to be done. The result we have now is a combination of interaction and creative collaboration of each one’s different perspectives and the particularities of time and place that they brought them together. Still all these features are always in progress and this is what I find mostly interesting. In A-DASH we work on the one side collectively for the projects happening within the space independently if they are solo or group exhibitions/ events. On the other side, each one of us keeps doing their own individual artistic work. Personally, I think this is a creative process, judging from the similar experience I have had from my participation in the ‘Depression Era’ collective, meaning that the individual practice feeds the collective and vice versa.
ZH: I think that almost since 2011-12 the artistic scene in Athens has been seriously moving. Locally speaking almost everyone had felt the need to express their thoughts and feelings towards the crisis. As a response to that residencies and artist initiatives/collectives/ workshops were formed, plus there was support in terms of funding and promotion from Greek private institutions. Already then some artists from abroad have begun visiting Athens or even settling here. It is definitely true that the announcement of documenta gave a boost to all of that and contributed to the vibrant scene that we see at the moment and the upcoming months. For me what makes clearly a difference is the interest in Athens coming from abroad and for the moment I would not get into a criticism what has caused it and whether it’s here to stay. Athens is a complicated and challenging place and for many reasons has never been favored by artists. I am very interested to see how international artists perceive it and at the same time how we can all collaborate in producing something substantial with new perspectives. Literally everyone has so much to gain from this encounter. This is what A-DASH could provide; it could be (and hopefully is already) a hub creating dialogue between the local and the global. It is not a gallery or a residency or simply studios but a combination of these with a permanent and strong basis –the building itself– within a city that, for the first time, is receiving international artistic attention to such an extent.
ZH: I see, at least for the moment, every act as positive. Everyone is trying to have a voice and even if some are ephemeral, in other words are here only for documenta, I don’t think this is something we need yet to be judgmental about. What is needed now is good communication, coordination and collaboration between all these voices and initiatives, so that everyone could be heard. However I am more concerned about the Greek artists and their position towards the new setting. It is certainly each one’s own responsibility to find ways to be part of this but I think they need encouragement not because they are in a way ‘hosts’ but because it has not been really easy for them recently. The most difficult and complicated part is that of sustainability. How do you manage and consequently benefit in the future, from all this, as a citizen, as a community, as a city etc.? Personally speaking documenta didn’t influence my decision as it wasn’t mine exactly anyway. I think that in general A-DASH was a concurrence of good will, work, organization and luck.
ZH: A-DASH has just begun so I don’t think we should make any comparisons yet, especially with documenta’s Public Program which has been running since September 2016. So speaking only about that, I attended only 2-3 sessions, and I didn’t feel interested enough to follow more. I think that location wise it was a good decision and the whole idea in terms of presentation and concept is challenging and interesting. In my opinion it did not succeed into involving a wider audience but stayed only into the confined art one. This might have happened for three reasons (I just want to make clear I am referring mostly to the Greek public here), first, because of the simple fact that it was not communicated well, people literally did not have a clue of what was happening. Secondly, the approach towards Greece’s dictatorship period did not manage to attract the Greek audience, but left it indifferent. Greeks are too familiar with the main dictatorship narrative (the ‘Polytechneio’ uprising, secret police torture practices etc.) and the Public Program did not add anything to it but repeated it, and what is more, in a rather simplistic way. At the same time, the associations it attempted to make with Greece’s Junta and the sociopolitical conditions in general now and then, to those of other countries or cases which lack freedom, was superficial and irrelevant. Most of them did not manage to touch at all the urgent and complicated issues concerning the Greek society at present.
ZH: I think has begun since September but since the beginning of March has been really intense. They certainly expect to see first of all documenta and of course local galleries, cultural spaces and to meet other artists/ curators/ collectors etc. What I am hoping is that, within the time limits they have, they expect also to see Athens. I think that the actual form of d14, that will spread into the city, will help a lot.
ZH: I have not experienced any other than that of more and more international artists and researchers visiting A-DASH (quite young most of them, between 25-35 years max.)
ZH: I am really hoping that it will not decline and that it will create a standard cultural basis for a truly proliferate art scene in Athens. A scene which will enable foremost the Greek artists/curators to create and promote their work in equal terms as many of their colleagues from abroad and the city to continue to attract international interest and provide a permanent space of creative dialogue and exchange. These cannot happen if the people, the neighborhood, the city do not follow the same path. However I am not very optimistic about all the above judging from the Greek State’s lack of any cultural agenda, now and throughout the past. Even now that documenta is actually here I don’t think they care and neither they understand its potential and importance. But maybe we can do it without official help from the State as this is what has actually been happening in Greece always.
Author: Miriam J. Carranza & Clara Ronsdorf