I strongly believe crisis is a catalyst for change and a transition from the private to the public sphere. In my case, it signalled a break with the present and gave birth to new ways of thinking and making art. E.P.
I SPEAK IN ENGLISH
Two of Elli’s creations the Cave and Revolt Athens will tour at the BE Festival for the REP, Birmingham, UK (last year’s First Prize Award) and then at the Copenhagen Opera Festival and the Aalborg Opera Festival in Denmark in August. In Greece, we will see Cave at the Megaron, Concert Hall in October.
Elli Papakonstantinou is currently commissioned to direct Kazin Barokk, one of the main productions of Valletta – European Capital of Culture 2018.
She is also been awarded with a “Fulbright Artist’s Award 2018-19” and is proudly collaborating with CCARMA of Stanford University on her new creation Oedipus, Sex with Mom was Blinding.
At the same time, the bilingual publication “Vyrsodepseio, a theater in the years of the crisis” about the artist’s work is released by Nefeli Publishing House, Greece.
Twenty-four hours with the director Elli Papakonstantinou
09.00 – 10.00
My alarm goes on. A part of me gets up from bed, while another lies in a stream of dreams solving problems, completing made-up dialogues with collaborators or friends. Caressing my dog, I look at my emails on my cell phone, drink coffee and gradually get myself back in the present… I keep notes about the libretto I’m working on at this time. This leads me to the office, where for the next one hour (until the first phone call) I’ ll be writing a new libretto.
10.00 – 12.00
This time is usually devoted to production; I talk with Maltese colleagues of the Cultural Capital of Europe (Valetta 18) who are working with me in a commissioned upcoming creation “Kazin Barokk” (due to premier in September 2018); also, with festivals in Britain and Denmark where we are touring the Cave (summer 2018). Questions such as: “Why does the production not respond to the persistent queries of the French actress?” And some personal ones: “Are they racists, is this why I m not wanted?” I exchange many emails for the tour of my last creation the Cave in England and Denmark; and above all, I try to keep my coolness with unpredictable problems such as:”The airline does not accept a santour in the aircraft, just a double bass!”
12.00 – 17.00
Waiting for the last transfer of photos to Stanford University to be completed, I am late for my rehearsal of the “Cave”. From my balcony I can see the Acropolis and send ‘her’ a morning kiss. In less than 15 mins I’m in the rehearsal, while in the car, I’m talking to friends I love and their voice reassures me. I am going to the rehearsal of “Cave”, which I rework at the same time as another show “Revolt Athens”. Last adjustments of the two shows before their international tour. I want every creation of mine to be an open field.
17.30 – 18.30
Chaos at home. My dog rushes over me, my daughter reads or plays the violin; at home someone will always play music, guitar, violin or the ‘theremin’, or just make noise, a lot of noise, and I always seek for a quiet corner but deep down cherish chaos; Colleagues and friends always come round; they come and go. Someone will deliver something, another will come to take a sound console or books. Questions such as “When do I fly for Vienna? Tomorrow; And where will I stay?” are hurled in the air waiting for an answer.
18.30 – 19.30
Meetings with partners, appointments, continuing the morning work. When I work at home, my favorite habit is to work side by side with my daughter doing her homework. I help her and she helps with her presence. I water and take care of my plants. This is my idea of meditation.
20.00 – 21.00
Skype with Stanford’s US partners for my new project to be completed in the US next year. Ideas for the designing of new media. How will the public interact with the new technologies? How can Stanford’s simulated Hagia Sophia’s sound environment be incorporated in the new project? We close with a “to be continued”.
21.00 – 23.00
With my friends or my family; usually relaxing with a movie or a nice conversation.
23.30 – 2.30
The deepest hour. Many ideas are born here, but also while I sleep. In absolute silence I usually do a lot of reading, I write. When I’m directing, I work until 5 o’clock in the morning. I always liked the night, and when I did not sleep or go out to drink, I used this time of the day to read in a secret cocoon of time.
Interview with George Voudiklaris
Elli Papakonstantinou: “I am astonished with the talent in our country”
The director of ODC Ensemble shares her thoughts on her newest, fascinating project… that brings Plato’s Cave to the era of fake news and social media.
The concept of the performance – drawing connections between the shadows in Plato’s Cave and the Internet, fake online profiles and fake news – is, without a doubt, a bold and fertile one. Working on the allegory of the Cave in the format of an oratorio or a contemporary rock opera certainly is a high stake. ODC Ensemble presents the outcome of their work at the Greek Art Theatre Karolos Koun for a few days. Director Elli Papakonstantinou spoke to Popaganda about this exciting project.
How can one stage Plato’s Cave?
In good faith: my starting point was our world and today’s people. Naturally, one does not begin with Plato: his words are too remote, too distant from us. In a sense, I used Plato to talk about what is happening today and perhaps to draw some parallels about how western civilization has not really evolved for thousands of years. Some issues raised by Plato include the Matrix, how humans relate to the truth, to their inner and to the collective truths, to the existential and socio-political dimension of the truth. These questions are still open. We may in fact be retreating rather than advancing. But I do not care to make such estimates, to say whether we are evolving or not. My text (I say ‘my text’ as the final performative text a synthesis and writing up of my own invention that is based on Plato) is open for interpretation, timeless. This is how I view it. And I use today’s reality as a take-off point.
How did the concept come about?
Some texts are too difficult to adapt for the stage. Texts that are philosophical, complex and multidimensional. I am extremely interested in this type of texts. I ve been thinking on the Allegory of the Cave for two years. This is a Matrix metaphor that raises questions: what’s our relationship between news and facts?… How does our culture as a whole and even we, as individuals, reproduce and disseminate fake news and facts, sometimes unwillingly, by phrasing opinions as facts in social media? …We are now at a point where we hold conversations in the social media only with those who share similar views. We no longer verify our views, we do not choose to back them up with data, we do not choose our interlocutors, or rather algorithms chose them for us on the basis of similarity and intimacy. And when we think we are opening a dialogue in social media, we are being tricked by the algorithms, to open dialogues with one of “us”.
And where has this led to?
…I did not want my performance to describe what I am talking about right now, a text focusing exclusively on current affairs. I was interested in learning and drawing from a complex text, which has multiple interpretations; a text that opens the human soul on several levels. And I really wanted to converse with such a text. I also feel stuck in a rut, caught in a reality of fragmented time, constantly on the go in order to make ends meet, constantly looking at my watch, not being able to catch my breath and reflect; a reality that seldom allows me the time to chat with people whose way of thinking I appreciate. And I’ve begun thinking why this is happening. Why don’t I have the time to see my friends, listen to music, talk about books? Why do I feel confined to the present?
And what answers did you get to these questions?
I almost guilt-trip myself into thinking that I must know absolutely everything that is happening today in the world.… Language is a key to the answers. I often catch myself sending very brief text messages, using a kind of language that is strictly task-oriented. In my opinion, all this betrays an attachment to the surface of things. And this issue of language is extremely important. We have been educated to disseminate information without thinking.
But if you distort language, you also distort meaning. If you cut down on language, you also cut down on thought.
Exactly. And that’s what I think is happening for example in politics. You see politicians, both in Greece and abroad, increasingly using mottos, black-and-white concepts, and marketing tricks to attract voters. This is extremely problematic for me. Political discourse has stopped being reflective; this is the one of the causes leading to fascist phenomena. … That’s where my love for Plato, not only for the Republic and the Allegory of the Cave, but also for Socrate’s method as a whole, for the dialectic method, came about. Socrates constantly says: Put yourselves under a test. Test your views, your ideas. But for this to happen, you need to have a strong conversationalist. You need to have an argument and a counterargument. It’s as if we have drifted away from this…That’s why in social media we restrict ourselves to a group of people who think in a way similar to ours. Let us remember genetics, though: it is usually through inbreeding that mentally challenged offspring are born.
What’s your idea of an allegory?
An allegory is an imperfect metaphor. It is this lack of perfection which makes it so alluring, because it exposes the viewer at once to the existential, the political, the social, the private, hitting simultaneously at all these levels, and I hope this happens with our performance as well. And one last thing I recently discovered and has really impressed me: Plato refers to the word “μώσθαι”, which means ‘searching for the truth’. It shares the same root with the words ‘music’ and ‘muses’…
And what does the Muse do?
In the Republic, the Siren coordinating the great pendulum of the universe, and below her are the Fates, talking to the souls and assigning to each of them their next life… And there is a kind of knowledge within each soul, there is a memory of this cosmic knowledge and music unlocks this knowledge. That’s why it opens individuals and human speech up to unknown fields. It is significant that we knowledge of the truth is embedded in us. We may not have the courage to see what we already know. Our cowardice is symptomatic of the lie in which we live in…
I find it interesting that your performances vary wildly. Richard II, Lοuisette and The Cave, at first glance, have little to do with each other. But there is something called an ensemble, teamwork, and this is prevalent in all your performances.
My team is the most important thing to me… Maybe that’s why you say that I come up with a different form for each new production. …Every single time the stage mechanisms we invent are different because we start from within, and we’re open to risks… I work with my company, the ODC Ensemble, with a stable chore of collaborators…but I always hold auditions adding new blood to the team.. and I am very happy to do so. I have discovered excellent talents, people who have worked so much with themselves. I am stunned at the level of talent in this country.
Interview with Politismos Museum of Greek History in Arts & Culturex
Elli Papakonstantinou, An Artist Playing with Fire…
Elli Papakonstantinou has given artists, and activists, a platform from which to express themselves. her work, her art, is created not to provide answers in these politically charged times, but rather, to open expectations to endless possibilities…
Internationally acclaimed Elli Papakonstantinou is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the ODC Ensemble. Born in Athens, she studied at the Greek National School of Arts and the Royal Holloway, University of London. After a number of years working in London, she returned to Greece where she co-founded the ODC Ensemble, and then Vyrsodepseio.
This weekend in Athens, the much anticipated Re-Volt will be on stage. The musical is an impressionistic journey through the sociopolitical problems of Athens today. The production was conceptualized and directed by Papakonstantinou.
We had an opportunity to speak with Papakonstantinou and learn more about how current affairs in Europe are being translated on her stage.
Tell us a bit about your recent project, “Re-Volt Athens”?
I conceived and directed this show for the ODC Ensemble with the intention to create a poetic performance on chaotic daily life of crisis-struck Athens. Re-volt Athens is an impressionistic journey through the sociopolitical problems of Athens today, in a crisis, which is pan-European.
My intention was to create a poetic mixture of genres and of tragedy and comedy and to reflect the contrast between Greece’s fame as an idyllic tourist destination and its fight for survival through increasing poverty among the population and hoards of refugees. The show is in English as it is created especially for a foreign audience that would dare to peep through the keyhole of catastrophe and hopefully reconsider stereotypical approaches and clichés about the Greek crisis.
Why did you choose to present this performance for only European audiences?
I believe that art can be a powerful means for a deeper understanding, if it is a lasting experience that touches the audience.
There is so much that has been written and said about the Greek crisis! The accumulation of information, figures and other data is awfully overwhelming but I very much doubt that people in Europe really understand how these numbers affect real people’s lives. In Re-volt Athens I try to draw the line between data and human factor and to create a real experience for the audience that can somehow convey a deeper understanding of the situation.
These days there are many different narratives and political agendas on the table regarding Greece and the Southern European crisis, or, the war in Syria and the flood of refugees towards Europe. I am only reminding my audience that there are more ways to think about the Greek crisis, connecting it with a much wider and deeper crisis of values and ideas in the Western culture. Figures and analytics is just indicative of what is really happening in real people s lives. These are actual events that affect real people.
Can you tell us about your theatre company, “ODC Ensemble”?
In 2002 I established ODC Ensemble (www.odcensemble.com).
It is a highly acclaimed company active in the field of contemporary and experimental art. We create hybrid art involving citizens/activists in non-theatrical spaces (thus intervening in wider public space).
Our works takes place inside and outside of buildings, where the audience moves following the action, thus questioning traditional frontal relationships with the audience. ODC Ensemble creates engaged art, out of the box, in unexpected spaces like a windowsill on Broadway (New York) or a residential building in Athens, or some industrial space, or so on. In March 2011, we procured our own space, “Vyrsodepseio” – it was the largest 19th century tannery in the Balkans. We transformed it into a multi-stage, versatile space for performing arts. The space is situated at the fringe of Athens, in a neglected post-industrial area. “Vyrsodepseio” is a member of International Networks Trans Europe Halles (TEH) and IETM and runs under the Auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture.
Why did you choose experimental theatre?
I like the freedom of experimentation; it is for me a way to be creative to search for new forms, new ways of expression or even to revisit old forms. It is a synonym of freedom for me. In my work the context of my art defines how and with what means and with which collaborators I will experiment each time. It is an open process that sometimes produces unexpected results.
Art for me is a kind of false equation. I mean, I usually start working on a performance with a false equation in mind. For example, creating a narrative with no words (as in SKIN, Vyrsodepseio) or lighting only with natural light (as in Richard II, Vyrsodepseio) or staging Woyzeck as post bank concert (Woyzeck Quartet, Hellenic Festival). But for each one of these aesthetic choices there is always a political contextual reason.
You have lived and worked abroad for years. Why did you choose to come back to Greece?
I missed my language and I’ve realized that I’ve also missed my roots, my maternal language, the sun… But, I returned because of the crisis- I wanted to fight though art and activism for a better future. I guess I love my country very much. I also believe that it is more fun to play with fire than to watch it from a safe distance. The crisis opened up new potentials, new possibilities to think about art, its content, for whom and creative processes. Crisis is the optimum condition for me to redefine myself as an artist.
In your opinion, how has the economic crisis affect art in Greece?
Economic crisis had a great impact on cultural sector in Greece. Of course, it’s been devastating as far as infrastructures and subsidy system is concerned. There is more than a phenomenal 90% unemployment in theatre sector at this very moment resulting to poverty among artists. In the Art industry, subsidies stopped entirely (since 2011), heavy taxation was imposed on non-profit companies and artists, Institutionalized art took over, lobbing and monopolies.
However, at the same time Art became gradually absolutely essential for a bigger part of the population with an overwhelming rise in audiences and performances and an overall absolute booming in all art sectors, be it music, theatre or the visual arts. There is so much going on right now in Athens and some of this work is really great. On the whole Greek artists reconsidered the context and the aesthetics of their work and are more daring and extravert than before connecting with art structures around the world. Athens is definitely attracting many foreign artists and structures, like the Documenta that will take place in 2017 in Athens.
What is next for you and for ODC?
In May I am launching a new project called “Happiness Unlimited”, together with Danish artists. My inspiration came from a funny discovery: according to recent ratings, the Danes are the happiest people in the world and the Greeks are the unhappiest. So, I started wondering, could this be for real and if yes, why?
What is happiness today?
Is happiness a reality or just a construction?
Can happiness be a commodity?
It seems to me that in the phase of a serious economic and spiritual crisis, the idea of happiness is still something to fight for in 21st century. Greece has been the cradle of the democratic idea and the Scandinavian countries have applied and realized some of the most advanced social models in the world. So, how do Greek and Scandinavian people live their lives today and how do we reflect on the idea of happiness?
“Happiness Unlimited” is a multiple format performance-installation (workshops, performance salons and a pop-up travel agency) that will address this topic in a citizen participatory and multidisciplinary way. In May, we will launch the first performance salon in the city of Aarhus in Denmark.
I’m also working on a new opera based on the play “Antigone’s Trail” by Christina Ouzounides; this project will be presented in Athens and in three major cities in Sweden after the summer 2016. It is a Swedish-Greek co production and artistic collaboration with Swedish and Greek vocalists, performers and musicians.
My wish is to present “Re-volt Athens” in the U.S.A. In 2004, I spent several months in New York and in Princeton University at the Music and Advanced Media Department as a Fulbright Artist developing new media for performances. I’ve also conceived and directed the “Odyssey” at La.Ma.Ma theatre in New York. Both experiences have been very rewarding and had a great impact on my artistic work. I therefore, long for a new opportunity to present my artistic work in the U.S.A. and I hope that this opportunity will rise very soon.
8/2015 #76 Interartive
August 2015, #76
Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio
Interview with Elli Papakonstantinou. Vyrsodepseio and the Potential of New Artistic Production in Greece
Current events and developments have pushed Greece to the forefront of international attention. The cultural and artistic sectors are struggling to survive and must constantly imagine new ways to create, innovate and produce art and culture in “difficult times”. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Elli Papakonstantinou, theatre director and artistic director of Vyrsodepseio. In this interview Elli tells the story of Vyrsodepseio, one of the most interesting spaces devoted to contemporary art and creation in Athens. She also speaks of the international collaborations and residency program currently being developed there, as well as her own company, ODC Ensemble, and some of their future projects.
HBM: Could you please introduce Vyrsodepseio, the space, its story, and outline your main aims and activities?
EP: Vyrsodepseio, also known as VYRSO, is an independent space for the arts, run for artists, by artists. VYRSODEPSEIO is a former tannery, a space, where animal skins were torn off. The art produced there tries to keep that tradition alive.
VYRSODEPSEIO is also the headquarters of my company, ODC Ensemble. Formed in 2011, it is a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary group in constant evolution, maintaining a core of Greek, German and French artists. ODC Ensemble is committed to creating engaged art by building a bridge between activism and the arts. ODC Ensemble has performed all around the world and is a member of international networks and civil society platforms.
In these times, when Greece has become a project, an experiment, a work in progress (or regress?), our work is inevitably an experimental project in progress.
But going back to the origins of Vyrsodepseio, first of all, I must say that I’m an artist and theatre director, and that my company is formed by multi-disciplinary artists. So, none of us was a producer, or had any idea how to produce a show or, even less, how to run a space when the economic crisis hit Greece and most paid productions and art programs were forced to come to a halt. 2011 was a year of social upheaval, with demonstrations and riots spreading throughout Athens and defining our everyday lives. Above all, there was great hope that we would be able to reshape our lives and make a change if we all worked together towards certain goals. VYRSO is the result of this belief. It is the result of a collective in situ work –more than 100 people collaborated to create the space and may groups supported this effort, lending us their technical equipment and know-how. The space was launched in 2011 with the first performance, which I directed, META (a performance on catastrophe and the end of Capitalism). This performance was the result of collaboration between Athenian citizens, activists and professional artists. Some performed in the final show, others supported the different aspects of a very demanding site-specific performance. META to my great surprise, turned out to be a huge success and performances ran for almost a year, with more and more people discovering us.
Of course, this kind of network around VYRSO was connected with broader citizen networks in Athens, namely, the “Indignados” occupying Syntagma Square and other citizen platforms. People supporting the ‘VYRSO project’ insisted on backing the structures we created and keeping the space running.
So this is how things happened. Since 2011, ODC Ensemble has been based at Vyrsodepseio, which is, by the way, the largest nineteenth century tannery of the Balkans and a real beauty, a monument, preserved by the Greek Ministry of Culture. The company transformed it into a multi-stage, versatile space for contemporary performing arts, located in the post-industrial undeveloped area of Votanikos, in the center of Athens.
Of course, VYRSO is a grassroots and artist driven project but, at the same time, it is a vibrant cultural cell that greatly helps the growth of innovative hybrid art. It is also an experiment on how to produce art in “difficult times”; an evolving project of synergies and co-operations.
While carrying a rich weekly program, it serves as a platform for networking between artists, activists, international organizations and individuals. It offers a space where companies and artists can rehearse, organize workshops, build and show their plays and performances.
Through the seminars, educational programs and residencies for artists from all over Europe, Vyrsodepseio is fully engaged in intercultural dialogue through art.
Since its creation, Vyrsodepseio has hosted artists in residency, workshops, master-classes, seminars and educational programs.
ACTIVITIES THROUGHOUT THE YEAR:
Site-specific performance/theatre/dance, artist residencies, new dramaturgy support, live music, seminars and educational programs such as dramaturgy and performance workshop, visual arts exhibitions, community and activist projects, media art, clubs, music and dance festivals and so on.
HBM: What is the role of VYRSO in Athens? How do you connect with the city and its inhabitants?
EP: The involvement of local communities and volunteers is essential to the artistic work of ODC Ensemble and Vyrsodepseio. Mixing professionals and amateurs on stage (approximately twenty citizens have joined the company), including communities in the creation process or in the functions of the space is a way to accomplish things together in times where individuality leads nowhere.
Also, the company launched a network of volunteers, artists and activists in different disciplines (theatre, music, dance, visual art, film/video, literature and architecture) in order to create an exchange leading towards the generation of new aesthetics.
VYRSO is situated in a neglected post-industrial area in the heart of Athens, ignored by most Athenians until the project was launched. But, in reality, it is a very lively area with a particularly interesting human geography: two gypsy camps and a strong Afghan community coexist with the local sub-proletarians and the so-called white trash. This is not a no-man’s land after all!
In one sense, the VYRSO project is also a means for Athenians to discover ANOTHER city and its inhabitants. Real people live and work in an area from which industries moved and stray dogs bark in the streets at night. The drive to VYRSO is an experience in itself for most of the audience, “preparing” them for an artistic experience intended (as stated in the ODC manifesto) to destroy theatrical expectations. This holistic experience of dissociation wished to launch Athenian citizens into a dynamic political dialogue in order to embrace change and new potential.
I personally detest the term “community work” and its practices stemming from a centralized authority aimed at controlling social deviation under the pretext of “generous pay-back or volunteer work”.
VYRSO does no community work, VYRSO is a community work as it is the result of a generalized urge to: A) survive collectively B) create new structures and explore the potentials and power of a new way of political thinking in art production, and also in rehearsals.
HBM: Do you develop international connections and projects? What kind of partnerships, networks and international collaborations are you currently developing?
EP: International collaboration is a primary task for me and a lot of partnerships and collaborations have been realized during VYRSO’s short but adventurous life. First of all, VYRSO is a proud member of the Trans Europe Halles network and of IETM. VYRSO actually hosted IETM Athens Plenary 2013.
Together with other European partners, over the next four years we will be carrying out two Creative Europe projects. Europe Grand Central is a European partnership of residencies and workshops on the theme of border crossing, while Creative Lenses is a project aimed at mapping and developing exciting new models of art production.
But I am also working very hard to develop independent, sometimes smaller scale, collaborations. For example, together with Barcelona’s Antic Teatre, we have created an exchange platform for Catalan and Greek artists, presenting works in Barcelona and in Athens. Last year, we co-organized a month of Greek playwriting in France with Panta Theatre in Caen: four Greek playwrights and four Greek directors rehearsed with French actors and presented four full new productions.
The political and humanitarian crisis and paralysis in the independent cultural sector is my main worry at the moment. Hoping to generate potential and to help out, in September I will launch a campaign called Share Your Spares. This campaign aims to raise awareness on the critical situation of independent theaters in Greece and to collect spare technical equipment from cultural centers in Europe.
HBM: Could you please talk about your new project Doc(K) Artistic Residency?
EP: We have witnessed an ongoing interest, on the part of artists, to visit Greece during this political moment and see how artists manage to maneuver this situation, while also being inspired by them. Since its inception, VYRSO has been offering workspaces and accommodations for selected international artists and companies. We have developed closer relations with some of these artists, which have led to collaborations and common projects. I would like an artistic residency to be, as an experience, a real osmosis and not a tourist agency or a cheap holiday in Athens. Of course, I believe it is important for artists to travel abroad, to disconnect with their everyday life and connect locally in order to develop work. But this is not enough.
So, this year I wanted to give potential VYRSO residents some extra tools and provide this residency with an extra focus. VYRSO is launching a curated artistic residency in Athens. Doc(K) is an artist residency focusing on the idea of using documentation as an art form. The residency is addressed to artists from all areas: visual art, theatre, music, dance, graphic design and media arts. Doc(k) will introduce participating artists to the Athenian art scene and, at the same time, will co-create the metadata of their projects. The Doc(K) residency team will document the process and the final work of the participants, exploring the idea of documentation as a new way of relating with the final work. Doc(K)will conclude in 2017 with the show Doc(K)umenting, presenting all participating artists from Doc(k) International Art Residency Program.
HBM: In terms of cultural funding, do you have any institutional support? How do you fund your activities?
EP: All the activities of Vyrsodepseio run under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture, but the contradiction is that, in reality, there is no institutional support whatsoever concerning the space or our activities. That means that there is no funding either for producing or co-producing, and no support, either in kind or technical, coming from Greek institutions. VYRSO belongs, as a space, to private owners.
Unfortunately, this contradiction reflects the broader situation in Greece. Since 2011, there have been no subsidies or funds supporting cultural activities and the independent culture sector is struggling to survive. As an artist, I started looking for possible alternatives to produce art in the framework of civil society and through collaborations. I felt that, instead of receding, art production should play a lead role in the socio-political changes of Greece. With this belief, came the urge to apply unconventional models to cultural production. After three years, enriched by dozens of festivals and co-productions, I now believe that models coming from the art world can be extremely inventive and can also be exported to other fields.
In a sense, Vyrsodepseio has become a brand name linked to innovative structures, production models and political movements, serving as a possible prototype. It is not WHERE we make things move (spatial references are significant as we are based in an extremely underdeveloped area in Athens, BUT do not delimit us, in the sense that we also produce ‘outdoors’ moving to other spaces of equal interest), but mostly HOW we make them move: by means of collaborations and with a broader bottom-up contribution.
HBM: Speaking about the future, what are your next projects?
EP: A) The cultural sector is, of course, going through terrible times with every production now cancelled after five years of austerity, 80% unemployment, the banks shut and the whole economy coming to a halt.
At Vyrsodepseio we are struggling against all odds and trying to be inventive and optimistic. In this frame of mind, we are launching a campaign, hopefully with the support of international networks. The idea is that two trucks will cross Europe in October 2015 (from north to south and from west to the east) reaching out to organizations that may have spare technical equipment that they would be willing to give us, even technical equipment considered obsolete. This equipment can receive a new life in our organization and will be crucial for our sustainability. After some filtering, VYRSO will also distribute the material to other cultural organizations in Greece.
B) As an artist, I am directing ODC Ensemble’s new piece “RE-Volt Athens”, a political visual performance which attempts to depict life in Athens. It will be presented at Musiktheatertage Vienna (September 3, 2015) and at Neukoellner Oper Berlin (November 6-7-8, 2015).
I am also rehearsing for the next ODC performance on Antigone and the idea of democracy.
Editorial: Mina Kalogera
A Life in 40 Questions: Elli Papakonstantinou
The director responds to Proust’s questionnaire on lifo.gr
What is your picture of absolute happiness? With my family and my dogs in the woods. – Another memory of fotos: I get lost while trekking up in 6.000 m. during a snowstorm in the Himalayas and I take a “last shot” of myself; I honestly did not care if I died or lived.
What is your biggest fear? Stop daydreaming.
What did you betray yourself and resent more about it? Many moments, I do not remember them. However, every time I have difficulties in my breathing, I know that some betrayal is hidden somewhere under my couch and I try to escape!
For what betrayal of yourself do you blame others? I blame no one.
Which living person do you detest most of all? I do not detest-
What is your favorite quote? “Take it easy!” I never do that, therefore I appreciate this quote.
What do you most long for? Some aspects of my life in London. Mostly the Sunday brunches after a late night out.
What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done? I do not know. Perhaps the fact that I launched ‘Vyrsodepseio, art space’ in a black hole of Athens; making a free fall from an airplane (the absolute realization of my childhood dreams); dying my hair purple. Usually, I am surprised by the reaction of others – I have a little sense of fear and I have no idea of what outrageous really is. Extreme aesthetics in my performance “Skin”, the show I present this season.
What’s your favorite trip? Kerala, India for Ayurveda, body and soul therapy – Himalayas, India for the beauty of the tall peaks that makes you cry and thank whichever God for the great gift of life – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania for the clouds far below from me that formed a single thick layer – if you jumped, they would keep you alive!
What do you consider as the most overrated virtue? Patience. It gets on my nerves.
Which feature do you prefer most to someone? Honesty and generosity.
What do you think is most important thing about your friends? That they can stand me.
What is the best advice ever given you? “Do not hurry”. As I said, they failed
When was the last time you cried? Day before yesterday. They often burn tires and cables near ‘Vyrsodepseio art space’ and something came into my eye.
What is the biggest myth about celebrity? I really don’t know what celebrity means.
Choose five words that describe yourself. Labor, overturning, creative chaos, generosity, faith.
Which music would you like to play in your funeral? What do I care? I will be dead. Let them play what makes them cheerful. Life will be there for them.
What do you consider as the ultimate degree of misery? Not to forgive.
Where would you like to live? Where I live. In the countryside of Athens with vegetable garden, dogs and hens.
What is your favorite occupation? Mountaineering.
In which cases do you lie? When I want to be left alone.
What do you most despise in your appearance? Nothing. I admire the beauty of others and forget about my appearance.
What words or phrases do you use too much? Political (I’m bored I will through this away) Collectivity/Collectiva (that too) Activism (I want to find new words; I cannot express myself anymore; If you have ideas, please send them.)
Who or what do you love most in your life? My daughter and the madness of my associates.
What do you regret more? I never regret.
When and where were you happy? In moments like this: I’m down with a flu and I’m writing this interview.
What talent would you like to have? A good singing voice.
Who are your favorite writers? V. Woolf, Shakespeare, S. Plath, J. Littel.
Who is your favorite fantastic hero? Tarzan – I was in love with Tarzan for years. My mom had invented a story to take me to the pool when I was four: that Tarzan watches me while I swim. She would give me delicacies after the swim on Tarzan’s behalf. Because of that I had my first love crash at the age of 5, and I broke out with sports.
Who are your real heroes? Normal people – few people .
What do you most despise? Inertia, dirt and misery.
What is your present mental state? Traffic jam in the National highway.
If you could change something to yourself, what would that be?
I do not know how to pronounce these changes. It takes a lot of work.
If you could change something in your family, what would that be? Nothing.
What do you consider to be your greatest success? That Vyrsodepseio contributes radically to the development of the Athenian are of ‘Votanikos’. In this Athenian central zone that did not even have electricity on the street, cafes, shops and more theatres are now opening. This area is completely ignored by the state, but its inhabitants feel it is a last resort; there are treasures of an old Greece in a new post-industrial landscape. It reminds me of the Indians of America – no one cares about them but they are inside a state in a state.
If you could choose how to return to life, what would you want to be?
Elli Papakonstantinou is a director. At this time, she is presents a the performance “SKIN reloaded” in Vyrsodepseio for only 15 performances, three of which are in the framework of IETM Athens: 17 & 18/10 at 10:00, 19/10 at 9:30 pm . From Saturday, October 26, “SKIN reloaded” will be performed every Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm, at Vyrsodepseio for 12 performances. Lastly, in the framework of the tribute to Dimitris Dimitriadis, she presents on October 27th “the Touch of the Bottom” at the Onassis Cultural Center.
I SPEAK IN GREEK
7/10/2018 Athens Voice
7/10/2018 Athens Voice
Interview with Ioannis Tsakalos
Elli Papakonstantinou: The director who excels abroad does not talk about a theater in Athes Voice.
3/10/2018 Gynaika (Woman) Magazine #October 2018
3/10/2018 Gynaika (Woman) Magazine #October 2018
Editorial: Xenia Georgiadou
I WANT TO TRANSMUTE FAMILIAR TO UNFAMILIAR: Director Elli Papakonstantinou analyzes the vision of her distinctive performances.
Interview with Maria Kryou
Elli Papaconstantinou talks about her cyberpunk opera, Malta and Oedipus today