The Village Omonia and UrbanDig_Omonia

Artist: Various
Location: Omonia Square, Athens, Greece
Year: 2017
Researcher: Giusy Checola

The directors Bas van Rijnsoever (NL) and Katarina Protonotariou (GR), have experimented in Athens with a design format previously developed in Amsterdam (NL), Utrecht(NL) and Oostende (BE), in search of re-making their spaces as 'squares'. They usually intervene by identifying potentially meaningful spots on the map that could be experienced differently in relational and spatial terms, depending on the movements of people, encounters and values attributed to the place. That is why they conceived The Village Omonia, because they thought it was the most crowded place in Athens, where they could ask passers-by and residents what was really important about that place for them. The artists decided to identify some site-specific characters that could give them the first keys to reading the place, its forces and counter-forces, based on the behaviour in the public space. The Village Omonia project was then conceived conceptually by studying "the silent one", who subjectively lives the space; "the rebel", who usually disturbs and interacts with the others; and "the one who follows", who makes emerge dynamics of leadership and anti-leadership in the space.Using a meticulous analytical method of investigation, including ringing all the doorbells on the square, talking to refugees, the groups of Albanian women who met there every Sunday, the workers at the metro station and the shop and bar owners, the artists have collected around 40 recordings (made by Panos Paraskevaidis and directed by Giorgos Sachinis). Eventually, they merged into a single monologue for a single personage speaking for all. This monologue was later recorded and performed by local actors, creating an audio tour of Omonia Square, accessible through a free smartphone application, transforming it into the village of Omonia. Afterwards, a group of local artists (Christina Mitselou, Marina Mersiadou, Asimina Kordatzi, Viktor Kostast Lighton, Anna Lioliou) were invited to do a drawing session in the square, after they had done the new Omonia tour, walking around with the voices of their personalities on their headphones, pointing out the places where they had interviewed people.

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The project created new coordinates to experience the place through the sensory and emotional experience of others, through several layers of reading the square, resulting from a relational mechanism based on different levels of mediation, concerning the relationship of the interviewed people with the place, including migrants and Greeks; that of the created personages with the initial texts and, indirectly, with the artists coming from the Netherlands; that of the local artists with the "compromised monologue", and finally the relationship between this cultural complexity, the audience and Omonia as a village.The artists used their diversity, their strangeness to the square and to Greek culture, to make the interviews and interventions possible, to build bridges between people and between people and Omonia Square, to give the notions of "diversity" and "the other" their enriching and constructive value again. In fact, several conversations were started by the artists simply answering the question "why Omonia" with the statement "we like Omonia", explaining why they liked it.

During the days of the festival, which lasted for two weeks, the artists, the interviewees, who were also called relatives, friends and neighbours, including some partners from the Netherlands, camped out in the square for a few hours, so that everyone had to bring a chair and something to eat or drink with the others. The owner of a local hostel recommended his guests to attend the camp happening and to visit the new Omonia Square, also looking at the potential of the place, which could lead to a cultural regeneration, increasing the value of the place and consequently his own business, as well as that of the local tourist industry. In fact, as the QR codes and the app continued to be active during the festival, the hostel included the new map in the cultural offer of the district.
Finally, the reuse of language to re-create, albeit temporarily, the relationship between people and the formation of a new collectivity around a polyvocal monologue, whose paradox is precisely what ensures the success of the project.

The Village Omonia is a co-production between Urban Dig Company from Athens and Company New Heroes from Amsterdam;Directed by Bas van Rijnsoever (NL) and Katarina Protonotariou (GR);Drawings by: Christina Mitselou, Marina Mersiadou, Asimina Kordatzi, Viktor Kostast Lighton, Anna Lioliou;Voice overs: Katarina Protonotariou, Giorgos Sachinis, Eirini Iliopoulou, Klimis Embeoglou, Emmanouela Korki, Eirini Alexiou;Recordings: Aux./ Panos Paraskevaidis, directed by Giorgos Sachinis;App programming: Wouter Goedheer, app build by Moqod

Progress Agency