Interview with Anna Lascari: Athens Report, An interactive documentary and installation project | CHRISTINA GRAMMATIKOPOULOU
“Athens Report is an interactive documentary and installation project that collects and archives interviews, reports, photographs and graffiti of life and protest in Athens during the greek debt crisis.” athensreport.org
CHRISTINA GRAMMATIKOPOULOU: Athens Report is created as an art project and as an interactive documentary. How do these two aspects combine and complement each other? How can they contribute to the formation of political consciousness in regard to the crisis?
ANNA LASCARI: I understand art as a field that can produce a critical analysis of the world. The research process for creating spaces for participation, involvement, knowledge and memory are elements of my work as an artist. Athens Report aims to be such a place in the digital sphere, functioning as a research tool.
C.G.: How does collectivity emerge within the platform? Do you think that the digital space reflects the collective experiences of the public space or is it something different?
A.L.: The material constituting the platform itself is derived either from collectives or by individuals who are active in the public space, trying to redefine and claim it. The archive material is collected and uploaded to the platform by the users themselves who intervene in the structure and form of a constantly changing archive. The crowdsourced archive is by default a collective action which is transposed and extends from the real space to the digital one. This form of collectiveness emerges in and out of the platform into the public place as a tool of questioning its own condition, as it is shaped in this direction, bottom-up.
C.G.: The project is organized through pictures and testimonials of the very protagonists of the events, people that cross the city and take part in political developments. Do you think that participants can change the course and the objectives of the project to a different direction?
A.L.: The project is composed of audio-visual material by participants in the events that took place in Athens from December 2008 until September 2015, current residents and workers interviewed in the regions crossed by the trolley. These personal narratives-versions attempt to explain the personal experience of the crisis. The platform expresses the claim of the public space, and the experience of these actions. It’s constructed from digital documents which also constitute personal registries. The archive is associated with the urban space and is redistributed by its creators, reconstructed and displaced by the imbalances caused through its collective creation.
C.G.: Having personally lived the demonstrations of the past years, how do you think they were affected by digital communication?
A.L.: Information exchange has clearly influenced the way that activism is communicated and experienced. Collective actions now leave their mark simultaneously in two areas: the physical and the digital. A footprint which immediately becomes information, recorded and shared simultaneously. The social media, apart from mass sharing of information in real time, become places of memory and a defective way of political engagement. Nevertheless, we can assume that individual and collective memory is constructed there in a participatory manner due to the technologies of connection and sharing. The possibility to document actions in the public space is no longer the privilege of conventional media and this changes the overall involvement in the production of narratives. Moreover, we should not forget that there are actions which take place only to be shared online and others that are meant to be left invisible; Athens Report respects the wishes of the people behind these actions.
A.L.: The trolley as a means of public transport allows a peculiar relationship with the city. Passengers have the privilege to observe the route within the urban fabric in a parallel temporality, turning it into a canvas where their personal memories and fragmentary experiences are being reflected. Another path of transport could have been selected as the axis of classification of the audio-visual archives. The trolley 11 was chosen because the historic line crosses the centre of the city, the urban area that in recent years has marked the socio-political situation in Greece, connecting two old neighbourhoods of Athens, Pangrati and Patissia, thus providing a representative navigation within the city. Also, the trolley 11 runs on avenues wide enough to technically enable filming
C.G.: Although the project records a specific period from 2008 to 2015, different historicities of Athens emerge: as a historic city, as a city of revolts and recently as a city that welcomed refugees. What kind of criteria define the time period of Athens Report; How are these three historicities connected?
A.L.: The project could continue for ever but this is not necessary because it does not aim to be a complete archive but a research into what constitutes public space. The dates selected are critical. The starting point is December 2008 with the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, a minor student, by the policeman Epaminondas Korkoneas which marked the period that ensued with an atmosphere of revolt. The closing point was the 25th of September of 2015, the date of the re-election of the SY.RIZ.A left, after the referendum of June 28, 2015. The explosion of the refugee crisis took place after the elections, however, the refugees clearly moved and acted within the space that we study from prior periods. The platform has material related to the refugee problem in this sense. But the refugee issue should itself become a topic of a major study, so we felt that it could not be incorporated into a project that focuses in a different context.
C.G.: What are your plans for the project? Do you want it to remain as an online platform? Or do you plan to create another art or research project from the material gathered?
A.L.: The Athens Report is a web project that can be presented online and offline, in a physical space, as an installation form. As an installation, Athens Report is based on two forms of accessibility of the platform, that are simultaneously active on the same site: (a) viewing the physical space of the trolley route and (b) the interaction of viewers with the audio-visual files via smartphones and tablets. Viewers can actively browse video files, connected to the respective area of the trolley route while their bodies interact, forming a collective space of experience. It’s too early to talk about future plans. We are still in the stage of the collection of archive material that will “dress” the route. But what would be interesting is the big data collection from the archives.
Also read in this issue: Athens Report: Documenting the debt crisis in the era of post-truth | CHRISTINA GRAMMATIKOPOULOU