Electoral workers prepare ballot boxes in a warehouse in Thessaloniki on July 2, 2015, ahead of a controversial bailout referendum. Greece's radical left government suggested it would resign if it fails to get its way in a make-or-break referendum July 5 that could decide the country's financial future.   AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS        (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Electoral workers prepare ballot boxes in a warehouse in Thessaloniki on July 2, 2015, ahead of a controversial bailout referendum. Greece’s radical left government suggested it would resign if it fails to get its way in a make-or-break referendum July 5 that could decide the country’s financial future. AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday 5th July the Greek people will vote on a non – existing issue, whether we accept or not the proposal of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, a proposal that is no longer on the table, as the framework for the agreement, the second agreement between Greece and her creditors, has expired on the 30th June 2015.

But absurdity is not the issue here. The issue is that we Greeks live in a society where discourse is dead. Democracy is also dead. The new government claims to be democratic, but I have serious doubts. The European Union claims to be democratic, but they do not convince me. Words no longer have meaning, it depends on what you are going to vote . Language is split, people are split. And this split is between good and bad, and this may not be a temporary split.

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What follows is an imaginary dialogue of two Greek citizens, one is identified as a «YES» voter, and the other as a «NO» voter.

Bu there is a catch.

Each voter is not an individual, but a member of a set.

There are two sets.

austerity

Set A is the set of individuals who will vote  ‘YES’.

Set B is the set of individuals who will vote ‘NO’.

Therefore, in each turn of the dialogue, we may have different members of each set participating. I will not try to identify ‘who is who’. It does not make sense any way.

The format of the dialogue is very simple. Each set member (voter) in turn makes a statement. There are no interruptions. I will freely comment on the statements, using the identity of «CHORUS». This is the result of exercising some sort of a poetic license, and it therefore totally arbitrary. In addition, I claim to express my personal views and therefore I have the responsibility for these views. Unfortunately, in spite of my best efforts, I could not convince Moses to give me the secret of receiving instructions from God. I have climbed many mountains without success. At the same time, my recent trip to Delphi was also fruitless. No God was willing to speak to me, and the priestess on duty treated me with silence.

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There is another catch.

There are various ghosts who participate in the dialogue. No one can prevent ghosts from intervening.

Political prisoners.

«CHORUS»: Even if Hellas does not fall the big fall today, she will remain dangerously close to the edge of the abyss for a long and unknown period of time.

«YES»: I will vote «YES».

«NO»: I will vote «NO».

«YES»: You are an  opportunist!

«NO»: You are a traitor!

Prime Minister Gounaris with other officials in Minor Asia, 1921. Gounaris was executed in Goudi, on the 15 November 1922.

Prime Minister Gounaris with other officials in Minor Asia, 1921. Gounaris was executed in Goudi, on the 15 November 1922.

CHORUS: Memories of the 1922 Minor Asia Disaster emerge. At that time traitors were the leaders of the Greek Government and Army and their supporters and followers, who were accused and executed as being responsible for the disaster that ended the presence of the Greeks in Minor Asia and Western Thrace. What remains from this period in the imagination of the Greek people is the word ‘Goudi’, the Athenian suburb where the ‘traitors’ were executed following a brief trial. You, Greek voters, you need to decide on who the traitor is! There can be no resolution of this conflict without a clearly identified traitor side! This can be resolved with the use of the State machinery, State is by definition coercion.

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«YES»: You are a Communist Bandit! You are against the Nation!

«NO»: You are a Quisling! A cooperator of the Germans! A black marketeer!

«YES»: The Nazi party of ‘Golden Dawn’ is your partner in the ‘NO’ vote. What are you talking about?

«NO»: You cannot escape from grim reality: you are the new ‘partners’ of the modern Nazi, the Merkel – dominated European Union.

«CHORUS»: The statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins (Giorgos Seferis)

Τα κεφαλια του Βελουχιωτη και του Τζαβελα στην πλατεια των Τρικαλων το 1945

The heads of Aris Velouhiotis and his lieutenant Tzavellas, in the square of the city of Trikala, 1945

CHORUS: Memories of the 1945-1949 Civil War are still alive. Back then, it was the communists who formed an army, the Democratic Army, and took control of mountainous territories of Greece. Against them was the newly formed National Army, with English and American support. Whereas during the Occupation by Axis forces (Germans, Italians, Bulgarians) the Greeks were united, most of them under the umbrella of the National Liberating Front (EAM), including the communists, when the Civil War broke, the Communists became isolated. People who fought the Germans under the wings of EAM, joined the National Army and fought against the Communists.The Communists were expecting – or their leadership had said so – support and help from the Soviet Union, which never materialized. Stalin remained faithful to the Yalta accord and abandoned the Greek Communists.

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«NO»: I want justice.

«YES»: Get real! Justice exists only among equals! Fight for something you can achieve!

«CHORUS»: How easy it is for desperate people to follow the leaders who promise to them everything they do not have, only to be bitterly disappointed later.

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«YES»: We must find a way to work with the Europeans. They are the best option for Greece. Who else? Putin?

«NO»: We must show them that we do not succumb to blackmail.

«CHORUS»: When you have a knife on the table and instead of slicing your steak you stick it into your guts like Mishima did, you get a sense of belonging to the «beyond», verging on megalomania (George Veltsos).

Kader Attia, Ghosts, 2007

Kader Attia, Ghosts, 2007

«Ghost1″: Greek people, vote «YES»!

«YES»: George Papandreou, you are one of the people who brought the country where we are today. How dare you?

«Ghost2″: Greek people, vote «YES»!

«YES»: Kostas Karamanlis, you are one of the people who brought the country where we are today. How dare you?

«Ghost3″: Greek people, vote «YES»!

«NO»: With this wonderful show of ghosts we have secured the win!

«CHORUS»: Ghosts, Ghosts, we live in a country full of Ghosts!!! Not only they are still alive, they do not let the living take positions in the political process. The ghosts keep the political process hostage. The ghosts occupy vital space. We need to get rid of the ghosts! But how!

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«YES»: The SYRIZA government and Tsipras have failed the country. They are incompetent and have totally screwed up the negotiations. For five months they were just fucking about, playing the «catch me» game with the creditors. Shocking and childish. People who voted for SYRIZA in January 2015 are now voting «YES».

«NO»: The government and Tsipras stood their line. What you say is propaganda of the power mongers and the rich.

«CHORUS»: There is no longer discourse in the country of Socrates. People do not speak, they make announcements. People do not listen to what the other is saying. They only listen to the echo of their own words.

Tragicomic

«YES»: If we win, and we will win, Tsipras and his government must resign on Monday and a National Unity Government should be formed.

«NO»: You are the agents of anomaly! The Tsipras government were elected in January 2015 and they will stay in office for 4 years.

«YES»: This would be the case, if they were not totally incompetent. Now that they have almost destroyed the country, they must leave.

«NO»: Dream on! Political anomaly will not be allowed!

«CHORUS»: How sad one feels to see that people cling on to power without regard for the implications of their actions.

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«NO»: We will win!

«YES»: We will win!

«CHORUS»: «Win win» as the Americans call it, but how good a win is, when society is full of hatred? How good a win is, when the country continues to be run and represented by the guard that brought it up in flames? When the hope of January 2015, Mr. Tsipras failed miserably in his first (and may be the last) major challenge?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Movie Story

Κυριακή, 21 Ιουνίου, 2015

Mulholland Drive, a film by David Lynch

Mulholland Drive, a film by David Lynch

Kill Bill, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Nebraska, a film by Alexander Payne

Nebraska, a film by Alexander Payne

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Paris, Texas, a film by Wim Wenders

Paris, Texas, a film by Wim Wenders

Mulholland Drive, a film by David Lynch

Mulholland Drive, a film by David Lynch

Wings of Desire, a film by Wim Wenders

Wings of Desire, a film by Wim Wenders

About Schmidt, a film by Alexander Payne

About Schmidt, a film by Alexander Payne

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Wings of Desire, a film by Wim Wenders

Wings of Desire, a film by Wim Wenders

The Usual Suspects, a film by Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects, a film by Bryan Singer

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

The Usual Suspects, a film by Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects, a film by Bryan Singer

Paris, Texas, a film by Wim Wenders

Paris, Texas, a film by Wim Wenders

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Kill Bill, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Kill Bill, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill, a film by Quentin Tarantino

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Blue Velvet, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

Twin Peaks, a film by David Lynch

on razor’s edge…

Δευτέρα, 15 Ιουνίου, 2015

athens-flag_1538667i επί ξυρού ακμής = στην κόψη του ξυραφιού…

on razor’s edge…

Greece is on razor’s edge.

The fact that Greece is bankrupt is not only the result of the «hubris» of the Greek State, the Greek politicians and, inevitably, Greek society. No matter how much they wanted to borrow money in order to spend and spend and spend, they would have not been able to do so unless someone lent them the money.

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The Greek State, the Greek politicians, and the Greek society at large did not build a creditworthy profile on their own. Greece became a member of the Eurozone on 1st January 2002.  Without this membership there would have not been any of the huge loans made to the country.

Back in 2009, one of the architects of this mess, Kostas Karamanlis, had the courage to announce that he fucked up and that the country is in deep trouble. Nobody listened. The paramount issue in the other politicians’ minds was to capitalize on this rare instance of honesty and directness.

George Papandreou won the 2009 elections and propelled the already bankrupt country into receivership.

The problem is that Papandreou did not have the guts to find a solution. He found the easy way out. Complete surrender to the IMF, the European Union, and the European Central Bank.
watermarked-amr_diab_nammos_mykonos_18-8-2013_065-600x359The so called troika came to Greece and implemented an austerity program that could not have worked even in a healthy economy.

Five years later, Greece is a destroyed country. And there is no future in sight.

There is a new government in Greece, led by SYRIZA, a left-wing party. But since they were elected in January 2015, they have done very little to give even an indication of a solution in sight.

Homeless+Streets+Athens+Struggle+Due+Greek+O79sEJ_ER9Ql

Instead they have wasted huge amounts of time trying to arrive at a «honorable» compromise with Greece’s creditors.

Greece has no future as things are today. The debt cannot be paid back. The economy is in shambles. The State is a huge mechanism that spends money and produces very little. The tax regime is flawed and discourages any investment. The judicial system is antiquated and ineffective.

It is not only the economy. It is a lot more.

The problem with Syriza is the key problem of the Greek society.

AthensGuards

They want to use a magic wand to rectify the problems of the past without paying any price. The price in this case is the Greek State. Ironically enough, the Greek State, the edifice built by the Americans after the Greek Civil War of 1945-1949, has been the primary instrument of the populist governments which ruled Greece. An instrument of power, control, and absolute neglect of any rules of an open economy. In this respect, Greece has never had capitalism. Greece always had (since 1945) State Capitalism.

We all know that in real life there is not magic wand.

homeless

Syriza are so much dazed by the vision of the rejuvenation of the corrupt and inefficient State, that they forgot to try and find a solution to the Greek problem.

They have been repating the non-sensical statement that Greece belongs to Europe, but have not elaborated a policy to address the crisis of the country.

Today we find ourselves yet again on razor’s edge, with the creditors trying to push Syriza in a corner «take it or leave it». More taxes will be applied if the creditors have it their say, taxes to be paid by the usual suspects, the pensioners and the salaried citizens, who have no ability to paid all these additional taxes, let alone the ones already in place.

Replicating George Papandreou’s lazy approach (let the others do the work, I only bring them in), Syriza have discovered that this only lets the fox in with the chickens.

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Too little too late.

The irony is that it is not only Syriza who have no plan whatsoever for Greece to recover. The same applies to all the other political parties. Firstly and mostly New Democracy, led by Mr. Samaras, who today screams that Greece is going back to the Drachma. The fallacy of accepting the Euro as a given is the capital offence committed by Mr. Samaras. Of course he is not the only one.

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And the people?

We have reinvented «Deus ex machina» and named her «Pride».

No more than that.

Just so that I do not give to the reader the impression of criticism without any view on what to do, I believe that Greece does not belong to the Eurozone and we should get out. The sooner the better.

One might ask «what is the plan? are you prepared?» and so on.

Given what has already happened in the country, both as a result of the creditors plans and the plans of the local politicians, one might be tempted to follow the well-established Pirandello plan.

«Tonight we improvise!»

But this would be unnecessary. The potential pitfalls and risks are known. It does not take a genius to put things together. All that is needed, is something we have not had in the last 40 years. The desire and determination to achieve a collective goal that will eventually improve our situation, without having unreal expectations.

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The gardens of Versailles are notorious for their order and meticulous landscape architecture.

Jardins desTuileries-Buste d'André Le Nôtre

Jardins desTuileries-Buste d’André Le Nôtre

This order is the preeminent feature of the design of landscape architect Andre Le Notre. It is the same architect who in 1667 laid out the Champs-Elysee and its gardens.

Versailles, Garden Plan

Versailles, Garden Plan

In the midst of all this order, today there is an element of chaos: «Amish Kapoor’s «Dirty Corner».

Amish Kapoor, Sculptor

Amish Kapoor, Sculptor

Amish Kapoor is a British-Indian sculptor, who has been invited to exhibit his art in the Versailles gardens. Kapoor is not the first to exhibit his works in Versailles. The first artist who exhibited was the American artist Jeff Koons, back in 2008. Before that, there had only once previously been a temporary exhibition at Versailles, one of 18th century furniture.

Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

Among the works exhibited by Kapoor in Versailles is «Dirty Corner».

The Versailles gardens without

The Versailles gardens without «Dirty Corner»

To get an idea of the impact of the installation on the gardens, lets have a look at how the gardens looked before Kapoor installed «Dirty Corner». Everything is in the «right» place. But what is the «Dirty Corner»?

Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner, Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Italy, 2011.

Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner, Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Italy, 2011.

Dirty Corner is a 2011 work by Amish Kapoor, made of Cor-Ten steel, earth and mixed media. Its dimensions are 8.9×6.55×60m. The work was first exhibited in Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Italy. «… the sculptural work consists of a huge steel volume that measures 60 metres long and 8 metres high in which visitors can enter. upon entry, one begins to lose their perception of space, as it gets progressively darker and darker until there is no light, forcing one to use their other senses to guide them through the space.  The entrance of the tunnel is goblet-shaped, featuring an interior and exterior surface that is circular, making minimal contact with the ground. over the course of the exhibition, the work will be progressively covered by some 160 cubic metres of red soil by a large mechanical device, forming a sharp mountain of dirt in which the tunnel appears to be running through.» (2)

Richard Sera, The Matter of Time, 1994-2005, Guggenheim Bilbao

Richard Sera, The Matter of Time, 1994-2005, Guggenheim Bilbao

My first encounter with a massive steel sculpture was in Guggenheim Bilbao, where I experienced Richard Sera’s «The Matter of Time». I recount the experience because these massive works engulf the spectator and create unique multidimensional experiences. Walking through the sculpture is an unforgettable physical experience.

I imagine «Dirty Corner» is also fascinating to walk into it and through it.

anishk05

Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

In an interview to Stephanie Belpêche, special correspondent of «Le Journal du Dimanche», Kapoor said: «My work has no decorative purpose. I want to engage with the work of Le Nôtre, who ordered nature for eternity with perfect geometric perspectives. … I had the idea to upset the balance and invite chaos.» (3)

Red rock, part of the "Dirty Corner" installation in the gardens of the Versailles. Jacques Graf/Divergence pour le JDD

Red rock, part of the «Dirty Corner» installation in the gardens of the Versailles. Jacques Graf/Divergence pour le JDD

It’s very shocking!” an elderly Frenchwoman cries as she interrupts her promenade down the main axis of the Gardens of Versailles to point out a massive boulder, spray-painted a florid red. (1)

So far so good.

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Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

But in the same interview, Kapoor dropped a bomb: «Facing the castle, there will be a mysterious sculpture of rusted steel 10 meters high (my remark: he refers to the Dirty Corner, weighing thousands of tons of stones and blocks all around. Again sexual nature: the vagina of the Queen who took power.» (3)

After this provocative statement, «Dirty Corner» in Versailles was no longer just about the almost «neutral» issue of chaos versus order, to be addressed over a cup of afternoon tea, it became a matter of royalty, gender politics, and sex.

dirty-corner-d-anish-kapoor-a-versailles-1_5354469

Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

Quite obviously, one is led to conclude that Kapoor in addition to being a great artist, he is also a great marketeer.

So, quite naturally, after he dropped the «vagina» bomb, he retracted his statement in a BBC interview:

«A work has multiple interpretive possibilities,» he said.

«Inevitably, one comes across the body, our bodies and a certain level of sexuality. But it is certainly not the only thing it is about.» (4)

Hmmmm…. nice try but not very convincing.

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Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

Michele Hanson, an author and Guardian columnist, wrote on the 8 June 2015:

«…And it’s meant to be Marie Antoinette’s vagina. I know the queen had her faults, but it’s a very odd vagina – a vast, brutish, metal, grubby-looking, gaping funnel into a black hole. I must say I’m a bit fed up with this sort of idea of a vagina… We’ve had vagina dinner plates, vagina flowers, vagina canoes and even an “origin of the world” vagina. Now here comes a fellow who still thinks vaginas are big “dirty”, dark, wide open holes.» (5)

The artist responded angrily on Wednesday, 10 June 2015.

«Your columnist Michele Hanson has got completely the wrong end of the stick (A certain age, 9 June). My work at Versailles is called Dirty Corner and has nothing to do with Marie Antoinette or her vagina. Perhaps it would be good for Ms Hanson to use her eyes when looking at art, not her ears.» (6)

Amish Kapoor

Amish Kapoor

I agree with Ms. Hanson. I do not see the point of the artist associating «Dirty Corner» with a vagina at this stage of the work’s life. If «Dirty Corner» were associated in Mr. Kapoor’s mind with a vagina, he should have said so when he installed the work in Milan, back in 2011. Doing it now, can only be attributed to an effective marketing and publicity ploy.

Of course there is another explanation. That Mr. Kapoor just made a mistake and has subsequently tried to recover from it. This is a distinct possibility, but not a credible one, because of the way Mr. Kapoor reacted to Ms. Hanson’s comment.   Had he genuinely made a mistake, he should have acknowledged it and make a statement to that effect. Instead, he castigated Ms. Hanson for not narrow-mindedness!

Going back to the work itself, I must say that I like it, and I prefer the chaos versus order paradigm to the «Queen’s genitalia». Sadly, the «vagina» association propagated by Mr. Kapoor in my eyes had the opposite effect. It distracted all attention from the work to a «forced and directed interpretation». Something that goes against any notion of the liberating impact of art.

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Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner in the Versailles Gardens

Sources

(1) The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2015

(2) «Amish Kapoor, Dirty Corner«, designboom, june 2, 2011

(3) «Amish Kapoor invites chaos in Versailles», Le Journal du Dimanche, 31 May 2015

(4) Sculptor Anish Kapoor defends Versailles ‘vagina’ artwork, BBC, 5 June 2015

(5) Michele Hanson, Artists have done vaginas to death – will someone please tell Anish Kapoor, The Guardian, 8 June 2015

(6) Kapoor: Dirty Corner has no vagina in sight, The Guardian, 10 June 2015

venus_kallipygos_naples

Aphrodite Kallipygos, National Archaelogical Museum, Naples, Italy

«ήν καλλιπύγων ζεύγος εν Συρακούσαις»

Ήταν στις Συρακούσες ένα ζευγάρι κοπελιές μ’ ωραία πισινά»

«There was in Syracuse a pair of girls with beautiful buttocks»

Athinaeos, Deipnosophistae, 554d, Vol. 12

Athinaeos wrote a wonderful story about culture and dining in the Greco-Roman world of the 3rd century AD. His masterpiece is considered to be the first cookbook, but it is a lot more.

He tells a story about two girls with beautiful buttocks and concludes by referring to a temple in Syracuse, dedicated to Aphrodite Kallipygos.

Kallipygos is a composite Greek word, meaning the one who has beautiful buttocks.

Kalos = beauty

pygos = buttock, or behind, or arse

Aphrodite Kallipygos, National Archaelogical Museum, Naples, Italy

Aphrodite Kallipygos, National Archaelogical Museum, Naples, Italy

The statue of Aphrodite Kallipygos in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples is a Roman copy of the Greek original, dating back to the 1st century BC (1).

The woman lifts her dress and turns to see her buttocks reflected in the water of a pond or something like that.

She may be one of the two sisters mentioned by Athinaeos, but we will never know.

The original sculpture is attributed to 2nd century BC, and thus belongs to the Hellenistic period.

The attribution of a work to a period (Classical Greek or Hellenistic) is indicative. A lot of the information on the original sculpture is questionable, and the resemblance of the copy to the original is also subject to scrutiny. It is well known that the Roman copiers had quite an eclectic attitude towards making copies.

Aphrodite Cnidus, Glyptothek, Munich

Aphrodite Braschi, Glyptothek, Munich (Photo by Panathinaeos)

The works included in the post contain a representation of the female nude.

I use the word «nude» rather than «naked», in reference to a distinction that originated in Kenneth Clark’s «The Nude» (2).

According to Clark, the «nude» is an invention of the Greeks, an «idealization». The «naked» is the ordinary, the mundane.

I will use the term «nude» differently, to imply a multiplicity of layers of sense and representation, compared and contrasted to the «naked» that has a single layer, the physical / instinctual.

The first Greek sculpture depicting a female in full nudity was most likely Praxiteles’ Aphrodite.

It was the middle of 4th century BC when the Greek sculptor Praxiteles was commissioned by the island of Kos to produce a sculpture of goddess Aphrodite.

He produced two, one fully clothed, and another fully nude.

The citizens of Kos were too conservative to accept the nude sculpture, and it was purchased by the city of Knidos, on the Minor Asia peninsula just south of Kos.

Aphrodite Braschi, back, Glyptothek Munich

Aphrodite Braschi, back, Glyptothek Munich. (Photo by Panathinaeos)

The Aphrodite of the Glyptothek in Munich is one of the many copies of Praxiteles’ Knidian Aphrodite, made in the Roman period.(3)

It shows Aphrodite placing her drape on top of a «hydria» (water jar), as she is ready to take her bath. Her right hand (broken) covers her pubic area.

Until the depiction of the fully nude female by Praxiteles, Greek Art was only depicting full male nudity.

Even after the Aphrodite of Knidos, the dominant theme in nudity was male, be it athletes, warriors, gods, deities, and so on.

The Three Graces Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C. Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Three Graces
Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C.
Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The impact of the Knidian Aphrodite on the Greek world was huge.

The three graces, surviving today as a Roman copy of the 2nd century B.C. Greek original, is a good example of the impact. The original belongs to the «Hellenistic» period. Its distinctive feature is that instead of one female figure we have a group of three in harmony.

The Hellenistic period was a «lighter» period compared to the «classical», during which the artists celebrated the joy of life and emphasized earthly, hedonistic aspects of the human existence. They also depicted vices (e.g. The Drunken Woman) It is as if the classical period landed on earth.

The Three Graces Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C. Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Three Graces
Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C.
Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

We have three female figures, more relaxed compared to the rather uncomfortable Aphrodite of Knidos, ready to take their baths, as their towels indicate, enjoying the moment.

Notice that they do not attempt to cover their body. Their hands rest elegantly on the other graces’ shoulders.

The Roman copy sculpture was placed in a garden or  a public building like a bath.

The Broghese Hermaphrodite, Louvre, PAris, France.

The Borghese Hermaphrodite – front, Louvre, Paris, France.

Hermaphroditus was the son of Aphrodite and Hermes.

The marble sculpture that reclines on a marble mattress sculpted by Bernini in 1620 was discovered in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. It is an early Roman Empire copy of a bronze sculpture created by Greek sculptor Polycles around the middle of the 2nd century BC.

The sculpture was sold to Napoleon and thus it found itself in the Louvre.

Another copy is displayed today in Villa Borghese of Rome.

hermaphrodite_back_750

The Borghese Hermaphrodite – back, Louvre, Paris, France.

This is a highly sensual sculpture.

The hermaphrodite is seemingly asleep, but there is expectation all over.

The breasts and male genitals are visible, leaving no doubt as to the hybrid nature of the creature, man and woman bound together.

A 18th century visitor commented: «This is the only happy couple that I have seen».

Sources

1. The National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Electa Napoli, 1996.

2. Kenneth Clark. The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form.

3. Raimund Wuensche. Glyptothek, Munich.  C.H. Beck. Verlag, Munich 2007.

A lamb offal dish for daring souls

Κυριακή, 3 Μαΐου, 2015

Spring time is a good time to cook dishes with lamb offal.

I buy lamb which less than one year old, and weigh no more than 12 kilograms.

Of course you can buy offal separately if you wish.

The most typical dish we cook is a lamb offal soup the night before Easter. I like this dish, but I wanted to try something new this time.

 

Lamb offal - marinated and ready to cook

Lamb offal – marinated and ready to cook

So  I marinated the offal (liver, lung, heart, sweetbreads) in red wine and oregano just to moderate the strong odor of the material, and then diced it finely.

I prepared a mix of fresh onion, fresh garlic, parsley, dill, fresh oregano, pickled hot peppers and placed it in a big pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you like, you can add some sultana raisins for sweetness and pine kernels for texture. After the greens started sweating, I threw in the diced offal and let it cook for about five minutes. After that I took the offal out of the pan, added the juice of one lemon to the mix (it needs the acidity to counter the intensity of the offal) and slowly reduced the liquids of the greens so that the mix is juicy with being runny.

In parallel, in a pot I prepared sticky rice with salt and added at the last minute of big dollop of butter.

Lamb offal with sticky rice and yogurt

Lamb offal with sticky rice and yogurt

I served the rice and offal in separate partitions of the plate, and added some strained yogurt because it adds a feeling of smoothness which I enjoy after the encounter with the intensity of the offal. The red bits that you see on the plate are chili pepper flakes.

Lamb offal - detail

Lamb offal – detail

The rice and yogurt work well together to enhance and promote the offal, which dressed in its green glory is hot, aromatic and powerful. The tricky part of the dish is the offal – greens ratio. Too little offal and you have a warm funny tasting green salad. Too little, and you are over powered by the offal.

Monemvassios 2006

Monemvassios 2006

I served the dish with a red wine from the area of Monemvasia on the Peloponnese, called «Monemvassios 2006«. It is a blend of St. George’s red and Mavroudi. I liked its balance and moderate intensity.

 

 

 

Greece, April 2015: What are SYRIZA going to do?

Δευτέρα, 27 Απριλίου, 2015

A group of refugees leave the Samanli-Dag Peninsula, on a boat they boarded with the help of the Turkish Red Crescent. © ICRC

A group of refugees leave the Samanli-Dag Peninsula, on a boat they boarded with the help of the Turkish Red Crescent.
© ICRC

The issues

I look outside my balcony and I see flowers, I see greens of all sorts, Spring is finally coming to Marathon and it is beautiful. This symphony of colors and smells however, does not take my mind away from the current political and economic situation in Greece.  Since SYRIZA became the leading party in the new Greek Government in January 2015, we have not seen any results in the negotiations with Greece’s creditors. Uncertainty rules the situation of Greece.

SYRIZA won the January 2015 parliamentary elections and formed a government with the ANEL extreme-right nationalist party. Since then they have started negotiations with Greece’s creditors, that have not been concluded to date and have not progressed much thus far. There are two major issues to consider.

The first issue is the conclusion of the current (second) memorandum between Greece and her creditors. The current agreement expires at the end of June 2015. A final payment of Euro 7.2 billion is pending.

The second issue has to do with reaching a new agreement for the future of Greece. The future needs of Greece have been – moderately – estimated at Euro 30 billions. The new agreement must be approved by the Greek Parliament.

Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras. the Prime Minister of Greece

The ongoing negotiations testify that there still is a gap between the creditors and SYRIZA. There are two potential outcomes.

1. SYRIZA and the creditors agree on a plan to continue the funding of the Greek State and formalize it as a new agreement.

If SYRIZA agree with Greece’s creditors, they must submit it to the Greek Parliament for approval. This means that it must be an agreement that is compatible with the electoral platform of SYRIZA, or is presented to the public to be so.

2. SYRIZA and the creditors do not reach an agreement.

If on the other hand SYRIZA were to choose not to reach an agreement with the creditors, they run the risk of the country entering into a twilight zone.

It seems to me that one way or another SYRIZA will need to agree with the creditors and either present the agreement to the Greek Parliament and People as compatible with their political platform, or seek another means to legitimize it.

What is going to happen?

Time is running out for SYRIZA and for Greece. The end of June is the latest an agreement must be reached. Otherwise, Greece will face bankruptcy.

In order to understand how SYRIZA are negotiating it is important to revisit the primary political objective.

The end of the Greek Civil War, Summer of 1949

The end of the Greek Civil War, Summer of 1949

The primary objective in politics

At this point it is necessary to remind ourselves what politics is all about. We hear from SYRIZA and ANEL all sorts of things these days, most of them populist nonsense.

Some examples will help the reader understand what I am talking about.

«We are restoring Greek pride»

«We will save the country»

«We will rescue the poor»

Let us return to reality.

The number one objective in politics has been and will always be to have power and to govern.

Defence Minister KAmmenos and the Greek Church Archbishop during the Greek Easter celebrations in Athens

Defence Minister KAmmenos and the Greek Church Archbishop during the Greek Easter celebrations in Athens

By definition, the pragmatists in SYRIZA have this prime objective, no matter what they say to the public and to Greece’s creditors. Recall that the definition of a pragmatist is:  «a politician who accepts that her primary objective in politics is to acquire, enhance and maintain power». Mr. Tsipras, the Prime Minister, is a pragmatist.

But there are not only pragmatists SYRIZA.

There are idealists, the so-called «left wing» of the party, led by Mr. Lafazanis. Recall that an idealist in politics is primarily interested in maintaining the purity of their political ideas, regardless of what the implications are. To understand «the idealism of the left» in Greece, it is useful to remind the reader that the left in Greece have suffered a humiliating sweeping defeat in 1946-1949.

Greek Communist Party Headquarters, December 1944

Greek Communist Party Headquarters, December 1944

It would be wrong though, to restrict the discussion to SYRIZA, as the block of power today in Greece is much more complex.

The vote of the Greek people in January 2015 was not necessarily a vote in favor of the left.

It was a vote against the creditors and the political parties that have supported the agreements with the creditors.

It is interesting to note that a big percentage of  the extreme right is now supporting SYRIZA. It is not an accident that ANEL, an extreme-right party is in the governing alliance.

To summarize, SYRIZA have been elected by a heterogeneous political base which may have difficulty accepting a «honorable» compromise with the creditors.

Given the difficult position of SYRIZA in the context of the negotiations, the question that arises is what will SYRIZA eventually do in order to retain political power.

Nicolo Machiavelli

Nicolo Machiavelli

How is SYRIZA going to retain its political power?

One of the cardinal rules  of political power and legitimization is that in order to maintain power you need to build and sustain alliances.

In doing so, you must dominate the internal front of your party.

Another rule is that legitimization is a key requirement when a political community is going through a difficult period.

A third rule requires that you weaken the opposition, so that there is no clear and strong alternative to you.

If we apply these rules to today’s SYRIZA, we need to discuss the following:

  • The alliances that SYRIZA is building in Greece
  • What is happening and will happen in the political opposition in Greece
  • What is happening internally in SYRIZA
  • The mechanisms of legitimization that are available
Mr Kostas Karamanlis with Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos when Mr Karamanlis was Prime Minister

Mr Kostas Karamanlis with Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos when Mr Karamanlis was Prime Minister

The SYRIZA alliances in Greece

The first alliance that SYRIZA have built is the one with ANEL. One can safely assume that this alliance was built before the January 2015 elections, and was formalized with the formation of the new government. The leader of ANEL, Mr Kammenos, is the Minister of Armed Forces.

The second alliance of SYRIZA is with Mr Kostas Karamanlis, who served as Prime Minister from 2004 to 2009 and was succeeded by Mr George Papandreou in 2009. Mr Pavlopoulos, one of the closest politicians to Mr Karamanlis has been elected as the new President of the Hellenic Republic. This is not just an opening to the «right». In my view it signifies the intention of SYRIZA to strengthen its alliance with Mr Kostas Karamanlis, thus also weakening Mr Samaras, the Prime Minister who lost the January 2015 elections to SYRIZA.

Another publicly visible alliance SYRIZA are building is with the Greek Orthodox Church. Contrary to initial impressions, the relationships between SYRIZA and the Church are excellent.

Prominent leaders of the Church are publicly praising the new Government, and Mr Tsipras has frequent meetings with the Archbishop, Ieronymos. The Church appeals to the most conservative part of Greek society, which basically is positioned to the right and the extreme right of the political spectrum.

From the above one can conclude that SYRIZA’s alliance with the extreme right is very strong, through ANEL and the Church, while their alliance with the center-right are developing, through the alliance with Mr Kostas Karamanlis. The gap that currently exists is in the center – left of the political spectrum. This is where SYRIZA is relatively weak.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

The political opposition in Greece

When it comes to the opposition, SYRIZA is openly trying to undermine the unity of New Democracy, by strengthening their alliance with Mr Kostas Karamanlis. They aim to reduce New Democracy to a party of the hard-core right.

There are movements inside New Democracy to challenge the leadership of Mr Samaras, who is charged as having led the party to the hard-core right,but they are rather subdued. A catalyst is missing, and New Democracy is trailing SYRIZA by more than 10% in recent polls.

All indicators point to a weak, heavy political body that does not have the vitality and strength to respond to the defeat of January 2015.

PASOK has almost disappeared from the political map following the January 2015 elections. Recent polls give less than 4% to a party that governed Greece for most of the period from 1981 to 2014. It is no accident therefore, that SYRIZA do not consider PASOK a force worth dealing with.

The new centrist cocktail party POTAMI, led by journalist Mr Theodorakis, is a different story. Recent polls give it 7%, which is slightly above what they received in the January 2015 elections. POTAMI (The River) are a vibrant political force, but it is too early to say whether they will survive or not. Their existence is due to the political dead ends that have occurred in the political middle ground of Greece, with the majority of the PASOK electorate moving to SYRIZA, but a significant component remaining unconvinced.

SYRIZA are hostile to POTAMI, which they consider a clear threat. Until now POTAMI are afloat and may play a significant role in the immediate future. This role may determine whether they will survive in the long term or not.

The ice pick that killed Leo Trotsky

The ice pick that killed Leo Trotsky

The internal SYRIZA front 

In the internal front, SYRIZA are playing a safe game: propaganda coupled with damage limitation, laced with fireworks.

First of all, they do not reveal anything about their true negotiating with the creditors. This enables them to appear that until today they stand firm by their electoral commitments.

The references they make to a «honorable» compromise and a «plan for economic development» are generalities that lighten the load for the SYRIZA die hearts.

Unfortunately it is not only propaganda that SYRIZA deploys in the internal front.

In order to appease the SYRIZA extreme factions, the Government have passed a law allowing a jailed terrorist who has severe health problems to be at home. This shows how they plan to continue dealing with the internal front and opposition. This is a risky approach, as already USA have expressed their concern for the release from prison of a convicted terrorist and multiple murderer.

Historical Compromise in Italy: Enrico Berlinguer and Aldo Moro

Historical Compromise in Italy: Enrico Berlinguer and Aldo Moro

Legitimization

Anything in politics is as good as its acceptance by the public.

Any agreement with the creditors has to be approved by the Greek Parliament. Is this enough to make it politically legitimate? For simplicity, in what follows I refer to «agreement» as the «new» agreement that will be in effect after June 2015.

Given the severity of the situation, it is not.

SYRIZA must consider two additional legitimization options.

1. Referendum. The agreement will be the topic of a public referendum. If the Greek people approve the agreement, the government is legitimized to proceed with its implementation. If they do not, the government can go back to the creditors and ask for modifications. One has to be careful here, because the risk involved is significant. If the new agreement is rejected, and a precedent is created with the referendum, the process may end up in a vicious spiral, with new agreements being continuously rejected by the Greek Public in a «decathlon» of referenda, without a solution in sight. I assume that this was the reason that Mrs. Merkel and Mr Sarkozy asked Mr Papandreou to withdraw his recommendation to hold a referendum back in 2010.

2. General Elections. The Greeks will be asked to vote again in order to elect a new Parliament and Government. The elections are even more complicated than the referendum, and in a country that is almost bankrupt, there is no time allowance for this type of experimentation.

It appears that SYRIZA are now in a corner.

The best option for them is to present the new agreement as fulfilling their political promises. Hard to do, but they are good in propaganda.

Alternatively, they might proceed with a referendum, taking the risk, but at the same time «engineering» it in a way that almost ensures a positive result, i.e. the approval of the new agreement.

People queuing for food in modern Greece

People queuing for food in modern Greece

Conclusion

SYRIZA need to retain their political power. To loose it after a few months in office would be a disaster for them.

If this is their primary objective, and I believe it is, they will eventually reach an agreement with the creditors but may proceed to legitimize it with a public referendum.

Alternatively, they may decide to avoid the risks of the referendum, and take it on the chin.

Two major political factors are in their favor. Their alliances and the weakness of the opposition.

They can rely on the strong alliances they have built inside Greece to absorb any shocks after the agreement.

They may also take advantage of the fact that their opposition is at the moment very weak.

What remains open is the future of Greece.

I am afraid that even if an agreement is reached with the creditors, the damage to the Greek economy and society is so big that it will take a lot more than a creditors’ agreement to recover.

Interestingly enough, this recovery is not on the agenda in a pragmatic way.

 

 

 

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