Tag Archives: greece

“Do the Right Thing” **

I have struggled recently to take in and understand what is happening in the United States right now. Not because it seems out of line or out of nowhere, but because I’m on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean when my country is tearing itself apart in the quest for change and for justice and I have never felt so far away from the things and the people that matter, right now, to me.

I am very lucky that I do not have to explain why this outrage exists and why it is being expressed the way it is , for the most part, because I am in a country which has been through riots and through massive political upheaval only recently, and who look at the actions of the police in America and are horrified by what they see.

But I have been called on to try to explain how all this came about. The daily struggle for black people and black citizens in America to be seen and perceived as a worthy and respected membership in the American community has not been visible outside our borders to the extent which it is now. It has taken the near total collapse of the international political and economic infrastructure due to a global pandemic for America’s founding sin, which echoes throughout the present day and has done so without interruption since those earliest of days, to make headlines around the world.

That any number of people have thought to say to me, “We thought you’d moved past this,” was and is shocking to me. When my first thought when I heard that George Floyd said the words, “I can’t breathe,” was “Not again.” This wasn’t just the murder of another black man at the hands of police it was the reminder that since Eric Garner was murdered by police nothing has changed and those who claim to “protect and serve” felt comfortable repeating a murder in such a fashion that the victims must repeat their pleas for the most basic of mercies.

I don’t know, entirely, how to start this conversation over again from the beginning. Starting the marathon of rhetoric over again from the beginning, the same one we’ve been running at home for years and decades and centuries, sometimes threatens to take my feet out from under me.

Because this discussion is everything. This is about how we talk, and what we say, and what we mean; but it’s also about the structure of statistical information. It’s about the performance of identity and anger in public, and it’s about the confluence of structural inequalities.

This is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of honor and a moment of truth. We cannot look away and we cannot be silent.

** Spike Lee

A Geometry of Chaos

Athens is a funny place, architecturally speaking. In the U.S., the boom in funding of development projects, particularly in the area of public works, in the 1960s and 1970s in such places as Massachusetts, led to the blooming of Brutalist Modernism in government buildings and educational facilities (see: the University of Massachusetts, especially UMass Amherst and UMass Dartmouth).

Exposed, indecent concrete

Athens had a similar boom in the 60s, but it didn’t result in the now-passé futurism of daringly uninterrupted planes of concrete (the béton brut, of Brutalism), it just resulted in empty spots of nothing where then-new multistory apartment buildings (πολυκατοικίες) randomly abut the empty air of empty lots and parking lots and the undeveloped airspace above older buildings.

Athens is a place of layered history, each year accumulates dirt and dust and the bottoms of the buildings become lower and lower, so that the late 19th century sits a little below the modern era, the Byzantine structures sit a foot or two below the current ground level, the classical period some five to ten feet below the surface. And looking upwards, the same thing is mirrored into space, with the buildings getting taller, and filling in what space they can, where physics and building permits allow.

A mess of planes and angles

It’s like the city got so excited about the opportunity to grow and develop that it overtook itself, tripping and flailing as it expanded. But the walls mirror the streets in meandering and intersecting one another until they give life to new, exciting shapes and experiences.

Having grown up familiar with the New England cities whose roads were laid down on cowpaths, summers in Athens still felt like home, with streets that run in parallel, except where they intersect. It’s got none of New York City’s careful, methodical approach to wayfinding and orientation.

When the opportunity arises to see Athens from above, such as from the Acropolis or some other height (after all, it has seven hills, as all proper cities should), little concrete blocks fill your vision in all directions like a rolling, constructed, pillared ocean, frozen for a split second in its heaving.

Rendering successful… Please enjoy Athens-2020.exp

Now Athens is displaying more modern tendencies, able to reflect current trends in architecture, all glass and polished stone, reflecting itself and its surrounding back and back until passers by are dizzied by the sun hitting back into their eyes.

But even here, the overwhelming intersection of planes is retained, though more restrained and deliberate, the sudden shock of intersecting lines is still given life here.

Graffiti, Photography, & Writing about Art.

Second in a series.

I still haven’t solved the problem of how to present graffiti. But I’m trying my hand at the first step: collecting all my data in one place.

At the moment, my formal organizational system is in the form of “sets” on Flickr. I made a collection that contains all the sets I’ve made of my ever-expanding collection of photos of graffiti. I still need to get some of the pictures I’ve taken on my phone around both Providence and Amherst/Boston, and marshal them into order. But for now, you have a curated collection of street art from Athens (Summer and Winter of ’09, then Summer ’12 and ’13), London, and a small one from Montreal.

But the predominant struggle here is one of How to Write About Art. Continue reading

Cops, anarchy, and feather boas.

Police by aeroplang
Police, a photo by aeroplang on Flickr.

Cops are a state apparatus that make me really nervous. Usually I avoid even looking at them, if possible. Much less talking to them, and almost never taking their picture. But during Athens Pride, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to capture all of these young men standing, watching the parade go by. Continue reading