Athens is a paradoxical megalopolis that brings together, amid the concrete and the clay, some kind of European bygone sophistication, a mild Mediterranean softness and the most anarchic third-world chaos. Resting upon a very delicate and precarious balance, it has been, for more than five years now, deep into what we perceive as the “Crisis.” That word itself is now so bandied about that it is practically empty of any substantial meaning: treated like a JPEG image or a hashtag, it is at best a godsend for headlines and more generally a cathartic outlet for the rest of Europe, turning into a flat stereotyped concept more than a conductor of the complex local reality.
From recession to austerity measures and riots, Greece is being swept by a financial tumult that drags along a continual social and humanitarian washout. Usually the art world is perceived as a sort of fallback spot, where the wind is softer and the waves are smooth. As a matter of fact, it is not anymore, the “poor but sexy” myth is slowly and surely crumbling, leaving Greek people with not much more than their offbeat, witty dark humor — probably the last life buoy and an act of moral resistance to the current and long-lasting situation. The gift shop of the new Benaki Museum annex in the Gazi neighborhood of Athens is selling “Fuck crisis, Let’s dance” tote bags. Silver printed on a sailor-striped blue-and-white fabric, the motto is both a self-deprecating fetish and a catalyst of the romanticized preconception someone might have from outside the country.