Interviews / LANDSCAPES

A PARTICIPATORY PORTRAIT OF ATHENS: ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ by IANNA ANDREADIS

Ianna Andreadis is a Greek artist living in Paris. Few years ago she started on Facebook a collective project called ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ with an open call to shot a picture of Athens from a window. This project  builds a collective image of the city starting from many different individual points of view. I started a conversation with Ianna three years ago and I have followed how this project evolved and how much the number of participants has grown until nowadays, as during these years she has never stopped to publish photographs on a daily basis. ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ was presented for the first time at the ‘Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine’ in Paris in November 2015, where the work of 430 different authors was presented. At the moment an exhibition at the Benaki Museum is running, with a selection of 100 photos and the publication of a book. This exhibition is a sort of conclusion of this trip with Ianna throughout the windows of Athens until the large scale printings exhibited all together in one room. These large printings, if analyzed at closer look, reveal a low definition quality, a sort of glitch in the digital process of photographing, sending via email, exhibiting on Facebook, an aesthetic effect that escapes from the control of the machine to seek for an alternative relationship with the real.


GENESIS

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Argyris Drolapas, Akadimia

THE INTERVIEWER

You are a Greek artist living in Paris. Which is your personal history and your actual bound with Athens?

IANNA ANDREADIS

I was born in Athens in 1960 and I left Greece in 1978 when I was 18 to study at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Paris. I wanted to be an artist and to live in Paris. I came back in Athens on a regular basis but I have never had the chance to really know this city, except for the neighborhood where I grew up, Ambelokipi, and the city center, where I had returned each time I was in Greece. Three years ago, in occasion of an exhibition for my books at the atelier Bordas at the Oikia Katakouzinou, I have started to become more and more sensible to the terrible situation provoked by the crisis in Greece. I felt the need to start a project that could bring unprecedented vision of Athens that could change the way we look at the city. I was looking for something that could have a meaning for the Athenians and at the same time that could give the chance to the Athenians, and of course to everyone who visit the city, to witness the city and to actively participate into an artistic project. Thank to this project, I discovered myself the richness and the extraordinary poetic of Athens.

THE INTERVIEWER

When had you the idea for the photographic project on Athens that you called ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ?

IANNA ANDREADIS

I had this idea in January 2013, when I came back in Paris from my exhibition in Athens. Actually it was an idea that I already had 13 years before, when I participated at the exhibition ‘Voyages d’artistes Algérie’ in 2003, under the direction of Jean-Louis Pradel. For that project I invited Algerians to witness their city by asking to use disposable cameras and to shot views of the city from the interior of their place. The title of this project was ‘Et la vie continue’ and it was very touching to receive these cameras and to discover the city through these objects. The theme of the windows has always been my interest: the window as the threshold between the private and the public realm that represents an intimate and exclusive relationship with the city. After some years I wanted to start a project with the aim to discover and valorize Athens. Nowadays everyone can shot digital photos and Facebook was an excellent way to broadcast. When finally I found the title, ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ, I launched the project.

THE INTERVIEWER

ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ is a project with an aesthetic relevance. Where can you find Beauty in Athens?

IANNA ANDREADIS

The title is very important in this matter. ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ is written in Greek and with capital letter. Moreover it is written without any accent so that it recalls a double meaning and everyone can have its own interpretation:  θέα means  ‘view’ while  θεά means ‘goddess,’ an expression that is usually used to call something that is beautiful. The title ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ thus depicts the relentless panorama of Athens as well as it brings to the fore the inner Beauty of the city. Maybe can we find this Beauty everywhere if only we are able to recognize it? Definitely I think that the right interpretation of the title deals with Αθήνα θεά.

The title ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ thus depicts the relentless panorama of Athens as well as it brings to the fore the inner Beauty of the city. Maybe can we find this Beauty everywhere if only we are able to recognize it?


A PARTICIPATORY PORTRAIT OF ATHENS

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Work in progress for the exhibition ‘Athèns a la cite de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine’, Paris, 2016

THE INTERVIEWER

What’s the scope of ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ?

IANNA ANDREADIS

The project aims to discover an unprecedented vision of the city. Athens includes all the urban agglomeration delimited by the mountains Parnitha, Aigaleo, Hymettus, and it extends towards the sea. This project was made possible by the direct participation of the Athenians. The invitation to take picture from a window is open to everyone. Every contribution is very precious and plays a crucial role on enriching the perception of Athens today far away from the usual clichés. After the publication of more than 1400 photos on the Facebook page of ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ the differences between the views are inexhaustible. It is always possible to discover our city from another point of view, the perspective of everyone’s everyday life. Every photography is like an invitation to take a look outside the window and search for a resonance with everyone else that can do the same.

THE INTERVIEWER

How did Facebook help for the success of your project?

IANNA ANDREADIS

Facebook was an effective and quick mean to disseminate the project, mainly because it is easy to contact and to invite people to participate.

THE INTERVIEWER

Why did you decide to collect portraits of Athens taken from a window?

IANNA ANDREADIS

The window is a unique, exceptional and exclusive point of view in everyone’s daily life. It represents our intimate vision of the city taken from our private spot. The window frames a fragment of a larger view, exactly like a painting. The window depicts a view that suddenly becomes a ‘painting’ thanks to a rigorous composition. This process can be considered the inversion of Leon Battista Alberti’s metaphor ‘the painting as a window open to the world’. Basically to frame means to offer a view of something that turns out to be special.

THE INTERVIEWER

Your main activity is painting. Which is your relation with photography? 

IANNA ANDREADIS

Painting and the photography feed each other. I could say that I paint with a very closed up, and while in I shot the composition is conceived like a board. Basically for me photography is a precious way to capture time. Notwithstanding, painting remains the main reference for ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ.


A VIEW WITH MANY ROOMS

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Exhibition at the Benaki Museum, Athens, 2016.

THE INTERVIEWER

You asked everyone to participate with their photos. Why the idea of this project as a collective enterprise?

IANNA ANDREADIS

Everyone can take a photo from the window of the place where they live or work. They have the time do to it and to wait for the ideal conditions to take the preferred and perfect picture, with a good light or with the favorite weather. Then they can repeat it and do it again and again. The participants immediately become co-author of the project, not merely a spectator. This is also a way to learn to look at things.

The participants immediately become co-author of the project, not merely a spectator. This is also a way to learn to look at things.

THE INTERVIEWER

That means that everyone will stand in front of a window.

IANNA ANDREADIS

Yes, because when you can see pictures taken from a window is a resonance for everyone that reminds us of the view from our own place and invites us to look at it with more attention. The front view photography of a window avoids the distortions of the perspective and it is much closer to the architectural photography that can better represents the urban landscape.

THE INTERVIEWER

Why the view of the city from the inside of a building?

IANNA ANDREADIS

Athens is discovered from interior spaces as they are lived everyday by the dwellers. The frame of each window creates a random and unplanned composition that depicts each time a different fragment of the city. Back facades, service stairs, balconies and tents, tree drowned among the buildings, neoclassical and modern constructions: everything becomes a tableau-oeuvre and it obliges to look at them at the same time. This expedient is put in place as a process of valorization. The frame of each window creates a random and unplanned composition that depicts each time a different fragment of the city.

THE INTERVIEWER

How is the landscape of Athens from the high floors of the city buildings?

IANNA ANDREADIS

In these series of pictures Athens is usually viewed from the top. The view of the Acropolis is one of the outstanding features of the city and also it’s the most captivating view. The rock of the Acropolis that arises from the dense contemporary city provokes very touching and strong emotions. It represents the permanent link with our History. The mountains and the sea are the limits and a physical presence all around the city that most of all symbolize a call to Nature.

THE INTERVIEWER

ΑΘΗΝΑ ΘΕΑ was presented was presented for the first time at the Athens Biennale ‘Agora’ in 2013 with a large commitment of the public. How was the event organized and what the response from the public?

IANNA ANDREADIS

The 4th Biennale ‘Agora’ that was focused on participatory projects. I was very happy of having taken part of it. The participation included a conference, the presentation of the project and a projection of 200 photos. It was very touching, because I had the chance to meet the authors of the photographs and also to bring to Athens Biennale people that were not into art!

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