Jannis Kounellis : I saw the sanctity of everyday objects


originally published at karouzo.com


By Yorgos Karouzakis
You don’t need a reason to write about the internationally acclaimed Greek artist Jannis Kounellis.
Below is a brief glance at his life and artistic career from an interview I did in 2004 with the artist himself and with some of his closest friends. The interview was first published in Greek in Cover Story and Lifo magazines.
Jannis kounellis

1936, Piraeus.
The buzz of travelers melds with the scent of coffee, oil and petrol on the waterfront. The hum of a diesel engine becomes one with the lapping of the waves on the briny body of a ship and the yellow aroma of lemons that the islanders bring into port. It was in such humble surroundings, near Kastella, that Jannis Kounellis was born – the birthplace he left behind in his 20s to move to Rome, newly married and in love with his first partner Effie, to the city in which he still lives today, the centre where he chose to begin his long journey through art.
A pioneer of arte povera, an artistic movement that emerged strongly in Italy in the turbulent 1960s, Kounellis currently ranks among the greatest artists of Europe and his work has been shown in major galleries and in some of the world’s greatest museums.
Ithaca is my mother.
Jannis Kounellis was born the year that dictator Ioannis Metaxas rose to power in Greece. He was just 10 years old at the end of the Second World War and it was not long before he felt the weight of the Greek Civil War: “the most brutal kind of war that anyone can experience,” he has said. “Civil war is the end of the concept of civilization,” Kounellis says. He spent his childhood and his adolescence in the shadow of this war, with an unformed sense of the destruction going on around him: a legacy of his birthplace that influenced the way he viewed the world and later shaped his art.

There is one reminder of tenderness from that period: two children holding hands pose for the camera in Piraeus at the late 30s. Only the eyes of the two boys betray the adults they would grow into: Jannis Kounellis and his childhood friend Yannis Sakellarakis, an acclaimed archaeologist, who died in 2010. “The photo was taken by my mother with a Leica from that period,” the archaeologist said in 2004.
A significant memory of their relationship comes from their teen years, when Kounellis’ family was forced by the war to make a sudden move from Kastella to Korydallos. “Those were dangerous days. My other grandfather lived near the Church of Profitis Ilias in Kastella, in the heart of the Civil War; no one could live there…,” Kounellis reminisced. Read the rest of this entry »

The Death Zone

Originally posted on geographical imaginations:

9780804778336I’ve praised Laleh Khalili‘s Time in the shadows before, and Jadaliyya has now reprinted an excerpt that is of renewed urgency in the face of the Israeli assault on Gaza.  Laleh explains:

I wrote Time in the Shadows in order to puzzle out why the counterinsurgency practices of enormously powerful state militaries—the US and Israel at the time I was writing the book—so often invoked law and humanitarianism, rather than naked force. And why so much of their war-fighting pivoted around the mass confinement not only of combatants but civilians. I was also struck by the similarities in the practices of confinement not only between Israel and the US but with historical accounts of colonial confinement effected by Britain and France.

For me, what was striking, insidious, devastating, was the less flashy, less visible, practices that were foundational to detention of suspected combatants and incarceration—whether in situ or through…

View original 2,300 more words

Greek court acquits farmers who shot 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers

‘Scandalous’ verdict condemned by politicians and anti-racist groups after case that revealed migrant workers’

Helena Smith
Originally published at The Guardian, Thursday 31 July 2014 01.35

Strawberry picker in tears amid crowd
Strawberry picker in tears amid crowd
Migrant workers react with shock and tears to the decision to release two of the men on trial; the strawberry pickers had demanded six months’ back pay and four were badly injured. Photograph: Menelaos Mich/Demotix/Corbis
A Greek court’s decision to acquit farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they asked for months of back pay has sparked outrage in the country.

Politicians, unions and anti-racist groups condemned the verdicts, describing them as a black day for justice in a case that had shone a light on the appalling conditions in which migrant workers are often kept in Greece.

“I feel shame as a Greek,” said the Bangladeshis’ lawyer, Moisis Karabeyidis, after the ruling in the western port city of Patras. “This decision is an outrage and a disgrace … the court showed an appalling attitude toward the victims.”

Scores of migrants, many sobbing in disbelief, protested outside the court after magistrates cleared two of the attackers, including the farm owner.

Two others, accused of aggravated assault and illegal firearms possession, were jailed for 14 years and seven months and eight years and seven months, but were freed pending appeal.

The strawberry pickers were shot in April last year when they demanded to be paid for six months’ work at a farm in Manolada in the southern Peloponnese. Four were badly injured in the attack.

At a time of unrivalled crisis in Greece, where living standards have deteriorated dramatically after six years of recession, the case had triggered widespread indignation. Media investigations showed the migrants to be working in subhuman conditions without access to proper hygiene or basic sanitation.

Politicians who took up the cause also weighed in on Wednesday sayingsaid the verdict set an unwelcome example for other employers. “It sends the message that a foreign worker can die like a dog in the orchard,” said Vassiliki Katrivanou, an MP with the main opposition radical-left Syriza party. She added that in a nation where fruit farm labourers were frequently from overseas, the attack in Manolada was far from being an isolated incident.

“It leaves room for new victims by closing eyes to the brutal, inhuman and racist character of the exploitation suffered by workers on the land,” she said, pointing out that the ruling had been made on World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

The farmers had instructed top criminal lawyers to defend them in a court drama that lasted for over a month. More than 40 prosecution witnesses had testified in a case in which the prosecutor had asked that exemplary punishment be made.

Denouncing the judgment as scandalous, anti-racism organisations said it raised questions about the impartiality of the justice system and vowed to step up protest action against the decision.

“We call upon unions and human rights movements to react against this unprecedented racist scandal,” said Petros Constantinou, coordinator of the Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat, in a statement. “The hundreds of millions of profit made in the strawberry industry cannot come about by shooting labourers in strawberry fields.”

Greece: Despair pervades camps after 33 migrant workers shot in Manolada

22 April 2013

Amnesty International

greece-manolada-bangladeshi-worker 22.04.13

Bangladeshi migrant workers live in terrible conditions next to a strawberry farm in Manolada, GreeceBangladeshi migrant workers live in terrible conditions next to a strawberry farm in Manolada, Greece© Maxime Gyselinck

They hit us and said, ‘We will kill you.’ Three of them were shooting at us while the others beat us with sticks. The shooting went on for more than 20 minutes

A Bangladeshi migrant worker in Manolada
Mon, 22/04/2013

The living conditions we’ve witnessed in Manolada are a shocking glimpse into an appalling underworld endured by thousands of migrant workers across the area

Kondylia Gogou, Greece researcher at Amnesty International
The victims of a recent shooting at a strawberry farm in southern Greece still fear for their livelihoods and safety, Amnesty International said after a visit to the farm.

A group of 33 Bangladeshi workers at the farm in Manolada were shot on 17 April by farm supervisors when they joined other workers protesting because they had not been paid for seven months. Eight of them were seriously injured.

“They hit us and said, ‘We will kill you.’ Three of them were shooting at us while the others beat us with sticks. The shooting went on for more than 20 minutes,” one of the workers told an Amnesty International delegation that visited the camp over the last few days.

While there, the organization observed horrendous conditions where workers – some in their early teens – live in crowded sheds without access to clean water and sanitation.

“The living conditions we’ve witnessed in Manolada are a shocking glimpse into an appalling underworld endured by thousands of migrant workers across the area,” said Kondylia Gogou, Greece researcher at Amnesty International.

“While the Greek authorities’ swift reaction to the shooting incident itself is commendable, more needs to be done to tackle the awful conditions and the labour exploitation that led the Bangladeshi migrant workers to protest in the first place. Such working and living conditions are unacceptable in 21st-century Europe.”

Labour exploitation

The Greek authorities promptly condemned last week’s shooting incident, which began when about 200 workers protested for not being paid for seven months, and are conducting criminal investigations. This resulted in four suspects being arrested – the farm’s owner and three supervisors.

However, the Greek authorities still need to urgently take measures to address to the long-term issue of labour exploitation illustrated by the incident”.

Last week’s shooting was the culmination of months of neglect and exploitation of thousands of migrant workers in the area around Manolada.

According to witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International, some 2,000 Bangladeshis work in the area, with a further 3,000 or more workers from other countries, including Bulgaria and Albania. Some have residence permits or asylum applications, but others are irregular migrants without insurance or access to health care.

The organization visited some of the sheds where the strawberry pickers live, near to the farm where last week’s incident happened. More than 20 people live in each of these structures, made of little more than plastic sheeting. They lack sanitation and a hose provides their only access to running water.

One of the workers’ representatives – who has lived in Greece for 15 years – told Amnesty International that the Bangladeshis were promised a meagre €3.15 per hour for a seven-hour workday. They had not been paid for seven months before last week’s protest. The workers also said they are forced to pay €20 a month – nearly a full day’s wage – to live in the sheds at the farm.

Seven of the Bangladeshis injured in last week’s shooting are still in hospital. There are ongoing concerns about the safety of the workers who remain on the farm.

“Our visit to Manolada confirmed the very real sense of fear and ongoing danger for the strawberry pickers, who are still reeling from last week’s violent attack and their despair over not being paid and the inability to support their families. The sad reality is that many of them feel trapped and that they have no other choice but to carry on working there,” said Gogou.

An old story

Since 2008, the Greek media has covered the low wages, poor living conditions and mistreatment of strawberry pickers in Manolada.

Some journalists who covered the story received threats. Farm supervisors beat and threatened a journalist and photographer from the newspaper VIMA in April 2011.

Reporters Makis Nodaros and Dina Daskalopoulou told Amnesty International that they were threatened after covering human trafficking and labour exploitation of migrant workers in the area since 2008, and a female TV journalist told Amnesty International how she was also intimidated while covering stories at the farm.

“Attacks on and threats against journalists must not be tolerated. The Greek authorities must work to change the situation of migrant workers that reporters are attempting to document,” said Gogou.

Amnesty International notes that migrant workers in Manolada have a right to full reparations for the labour exploitation they suffered – including access to legal and other mechanisms, as appropriate, to obtain redress.

Manolada workers: ‘no Greek would want this job anyway’

By Tamara van der Putten On August 1, 2014

originally published at : http://roarmag.org/2014/08/manolada-shooters-strawberry-pickers-acquitted/

Post image for Manolada workers: ‘no Greek would want this job anyway’

As a Greek court frees the shooters and employer of 35 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers, the plight of Greece’s migrant workers is brought back into focus.


Photography by Piet den Blanken

In the small Greek town of Nea Manolada, the smell of strawberries fills the air. Located in the region of Ilia in the western Peloponnese, a large number of enterprises occupy hundreds of hectares of land for intensive greenhouse cultivation. With a turnover of more than 90 million euros, strawberry production covers the largest part (up to 95%) of the Greek market, while 70% is exported to countries such as Russia, Germany and the UK, among others.

Idyllic posters of the plump red fruit can be found on every street corner, and spotting excessively luxurious villas is not a difficult task. In 2011, in the midst of Greece’s sagging economy, former “Socialist” Prime Minister George Papandreou praised farm owners for their bold entrepreneurial spirit and agricultural innovation. But at what — and most importantly at whose — cost is the so-called Manolada “miracle” sustained?

Inside a hot and stuffy tent, twenty-year-old Murad Alemir is wearing a towel around his waist, preventing a swarm of flies from sticking to his sweaty chest. The young migrant worker joins a crowd of ten others on the floor. Most of them are sleeping; others are eating strawberries. Like a sardine in a can, another man is lying on his side struggling to type on his phone. This is a typical Manolada shelter — a 30 square meters makeshift tent made out of plastic, cartons and bamboo sticks.

Lodging up to 25 strawberry pickers, temperatures in the tent rise up to 40 degrees in summer. There is no electricity, nor a sewage system. Three months a year, they shower and clean their clothes in a stream located behind the nearest gas station. The rest of the season, they use a hose that only functions two days a week.

More than 70 Bangladeshi workers live in this particular camp. There are about 25 similar camps, all close to the greenhouses where the men toil practically all day under conditions highly hazardous for their health. Following a fire breakout in one of the shacks in 2006, and statements by the regional fire brigade that characterized the workers’ accommodation as a “human rubbish dump”, labor and health inspections have been conducted several times — but nothing has changed since then. Read the rest of this entry »

Greece: A Nation for Sale and the Death of Democracy

Thursday, 31 July 2014
By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout


(Image: Dalibor Tomic / Flickr, Sean MacEntee / Flickr; Edited: EL / TO)
The savage methods of alleged “economic efficiency” and privatization increase neither efficiency nor competition, but do lead to price increases for consumers, higher costs for government, corruption, embezzlement and the destruction of democracy.
When the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to Greece’s rescue in May 2010 with a 110 billion euro bailout loan in order to avoid the default of a eurozone member state (a second bailout loan worth 130 billion euros was activated in March 2012), the intentions of the rescue plan were multifold. First, the EU-IMF duo (with the IMF in the role of junior partner) wanted to protect the interests of the foreign banks and the financial institutions that had loaned Greece billions of euros. Greece’s gross foreign debt amounted to over 410 billion euros by the end of 2009, so a default would have led to substantial losses for foreign banks and bondholders, but also to the collapse of the Greek banking system itself as the European Central Bank (ECB) would be obliged in such an event to refuse to fund Greek banks. Read the rest of this entry »

International Conference co-organized by the International Commission for the History and Theory of Historiography (ICHTH) & The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR)

International Conference co-organized by the International Commission for the History and Theory of Historiography (ICHTH) & The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR)

Historical Culture in Divided Societies.

From Theory to Practice

Home for Cooperation, Nicosia Buffer Zone, Cyprus, December 18-20, 2014

Α booming interest in what can be broadly called ‘public history’, ‘cultural memory’ and ‘historical culture’ has been taking place during the last decades, transforming history into a camp of contestation, a source for identities formation, a soft power for ruling fragmented societies, and a product for mass cultural consummation. Historical museums, heritage sites, commemorations, historical novels and films are mushrooming, acquiring new content, form and audience. Historical television series receive huge viewings while the internet provides an uncensored platform where history takes on any imaginable form.

Offering multiple and sometimes competing narratives about the past, these various forms, layers, and agents of public history have become the main tools for the representation of the past and, eventually, for the production of historical knowledge, superseding professional history and the Academia in general. The latter mostly concerns itself with the studying of popular historical culture, while it remains rather distant from either incorporating alternative tools for the transmission of knowledge within the academic sphere, or crafting forms of knowledge production that could communicate with a wider audience and shape the social historical awareness.

But what forms does historical culture take in circumstances of rupture and division? Who are the agents, both academic and non-academic, that influence or even determine the ways people in post-conflict societies imagine their past and relate to it? What is the agents’ role? What makes some narratives dominant? Does historical culture in divided societies always privilege traditional approaches and understanding? Or does the matrix of different agents and layers and media create more space for the articulation of alternative views that challenge the standard narratives? How do representations and interpretations of the past interplay with hopes and expectations for the present and future? And how can non-formal education and independent initiatives positively contribute to post-traumatic experiences?

In order to explore and further our understanding on these and more issues, the AHDR and the ICHTH are co-organizing a 3-day conference in the Home for Cooperation, in Nicosia, Cyprus. The conference will be divided in two parts, so as to cover both theoretical approaches and practical examples of public history. International Conference co-organized by the International Commission for the History and Theory of Historiography (ICHTH) & The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR)

Accordingly, the first day of the conference will be dedicated to a theoretical discussion of the dominant historical culture in divided societies, and the role of a variety of agents and forms, from Academia to the internet, in creating historical awareness in divided and post-conflict landscapes. Speakers of the first day include, so far, Professors Berber Bevernage (Ghent University), Stefan Berger (University of Manchester), Sanjay Seth (Goldsmiths, University of London), Eduard Wang (Rowan University), Mitsos Bilalis (University of Thessaly), Chris Lorenz (University of Leiden and at the Free University of Amsterdam), Masayuki Sato (University of Yamanashi, Japan), Sia Anagnostopoulou (Panteion University, Athens), Niyazi Kizilyurek (University of Cyprus) and Antonis Liakos (University of Athens).

On the second day presentations will focus on a wide range of innovative public history cultural products, and discuss their role in dealing with controversial issues. A variety of different forms will be considered, from museums and exhibitions; to literature, films and documentaries; to technology-supported applications (e.g. online games). Thus far, invited speakers include the Wu Ming collective from Italy, authors of a series of highly acclaimed historical novels, among them Q, Manituana, and Altai covering a wide range of times and places, from 16th century Cyprus to 18th century Americas and beyond; and Professor of International Relations, Costas Constantinou along with Giorgos Skordis (Hki Fi Sanna) from Cyprus, creators of The Third Motherland, an insightful documentary that focuses on the Cypriot Maronite community, addressing issues of identity and memory.

Call for Papers

The AHDR welcomes papers that address the second part of the conference.

Scholars, researchers and independent practitioners with a personal involvement in conceptualizing, designing or implementing projects that exemplify new directions in dealing with the past and addressing wide audiences are invited to submit a proposal. Speakers are expected to offer both a brief presentation of their project, as well as discuss its wider implications and innovative contribution in regards to methodology and/or in addressing the consequences of social conflict and division.

Papers from all fields (media makers, curators, authors, journalists, scholars, civil society actors, policymakers) and geographical areas are welcome. International Conference co-organized by the International Commission for the History and Theory of Historiography (ICHTH) & The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR)

Through this conference, the AHDR aims to create a network of interested stakeholders, who will have the opportunity to collaborate on future initiatives, including joint projects applications and funding opportunities, thus offering an invaluable platform for the exchange of information, knowledge and capacity building

The deadline for submissions is September 14, 2014. Please submit a title, short abstract (250 words maximum), and brief CV to: ahdr@ahdr.info. A brief description of the affiliated institution should also be included. Please note that the working language of the conference is English. All applicants will be notified by e-mail on whether their papers have been accepted.

Reimbursement of Expenses

Selected individuals will be provided with a maximum amount €500 to cover their accommodation travel expenses.

For any inquiries please visit http://www.ahdr.info or contact ahdr@ahdr.info

Updates regarding the conference will be posted on the AHDR website (www.ahdr.info) and the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Association-for-Historical-Dialogue-Research-AHDR/224097174294320


Antonis Liakos, Professor of Contemporary History and History of Historiography, University of Athens, Greece & Chair of the Board of the ICHTH

Daphne Lappa, Research Associate, AHDR, Nicosia, Cyprus

The Conference is part of the AHDR’s ‘Home for Cooperation’ project.

The Home for Cooperation project benefits from a €591,000 grant from Norway through the Norway Grants 2009- 2014. The aim of the project is to support the operation and sustainability of the Home for Cooperation, which shall contribute to the bridge-building between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus.


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