Thursday, December 8, 2016

AP ART trip to Athens, Greece

Alexandria, Egypt is sort of a vacuum in terms of finding any sort of visible art beyond what the Romans left behind. That is unless you count weathered buildings along the corniche, deteriorating street art depicting hope leftover from the 2011 Revolution, the slew of oversized billboards that dot the cityscape. Yes, art does exist here, you just have to look under the rug and/or have a very wide definition of what art is. One might argue the idea of Western art died here when president Nasser kicked out those who made Alexandria a colorful and cosmopolitan place to live. But this is a discussion for another time. 

Below is the letter to our parents explaining our trip followed by pictures: 

Purpose of trip
Students enrolled in the AP Art course at Schutz American School will have an opportunity to experience art and history outside of the classroom. The students will see and experience art in a historical, modern, and contemporary context. One of the objectives of AP Art is for students to make connections with identity and culture. Historically, Greece and Egypt share cultural commonalities. The proximity of the two have historically influenced each other. I am hoping the students will become aware of these similarities to promote a deeper understanding of the region they live in and their Alexandrian/Egyptian roots.

Art with purpose is the process of reflecting on personal experiences. Art is how we internalize, process, and communicate information on a creative and profound level. Art extends beyond an image and often includes culture, history, and personal expression. The process for creating exceptional AP works of art is the infusion of meaning and purpose. A new setting is an essential ingredient for fostering growth in students.  

This will be an opportunity for students to grow in the essential skills of creativity, collaboration and communication. Evidence of these skills is highly valued by universities. The analysis and synthesis of information and experience leads to innovation.  Whatever their chosen fields of study, being an “artist” who has innovative, problem-solving skills, will lead to success and satisfaction. 

What will students do in Athens
Students will be staying with Mrs. Baker and I at an apartment in central Athens within walking distance to everything we will inquire about and study. We feel that an apartment setting creates a community that will foster synergy among the students. The setting is intentionally intense to cultivate a collaborative atmosphere. We will explore the city together, eat together, prepare group meals, create works of art together, have serious conversations on how to prepare our portfolio, especially our concentration for the AP exam. What students will experience as a collective will not only lead to a more successful AP Art experience, but will hopefully encourage the desire to be life-long learners.   

Waiting in line to board our plane only to sit on the tarmac for two additional hours. Once we landed, vegan food for dinner it was. We embarked on a lot of "firsts."  
It was an early morning start at the Acropolis.

Obligatory group shot.
The old temple of Athena.
A view of Temple of Olympian Zeus and beyond.
A view of Mount Lycabettus and the streets below.
We had a guest visit from our former math teacher Mr. Ropke.
The Acropolis Museum was also on our list.
There are sections of the Acropolis Museum where you aren't allowed to photograph. Here is a museum guard telling me not to take this picture of the see through floor below.  
Alas, there was a few items we could photograph.
One of our students checking out the pottery. Photo By Ms. Salli.
There is a limit of archaeological sites and museums students can withstand. In the afternoon we made our way to the Psirri and Metaxourgeio neighborhood to check out the street art and a couple of galleries. The street leading to the Breeder Gallery was lined with sex worker houses and junkies shooting up. It was something our students had never seen in person. Our unintentional path lead to some interesting discussion afterwards. Each city has its own blight.  
Tools made from paper pulp.
We walked towards Exarcheia, regarded as the anarchist neighborhood in Athens.
In December of 2008, Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot to death by Athens police officers. This incident sparked outrage leading to protest and riots. It is said that the police don't venture into the area as the atmosphere is still volatile.
Exarcheia has quite a bit of street art, anarchy, and a great punk rock club (An Club) and record store (Rhythm Records). We didn't quite make it to any punk concerts but we did go to the Plissken Festival to see live underground/experimental music. Students were so intrigued by one of the band's name, several bought shirts...though not at all school appropriate (hint-see last pict. of the blog)
A stroll along the tiny streets behind the Acropolis.
We ventured into a thrift store in Monastiraki (Flea Market area). Yours truly with a student that shall not be named. 
Another student being creative with a mannequin head.
We have tried in vein to grab dessert at the Little Kook in
Monastiraki.
Sunday morning started with the Benaki Museum.
The Benaki collection is quite varied: from Islamic art to this 18th century painting depicting the Last Judgment. 
5th Century linen and woolen curtain representing a praying couple from Egypt.
I like the cut away mountain technique. It answers the burning question of, "What goes on inside of mountains and hills?"
The Breeder Gallery and an art colleague Dimitris said we needed to head over to the Athens Conservatoire for the NEON exhibit: Flying Over the Abyss. This is a drawing outside the Conservatoire with the caption: "It could be better."
From my understanding NEON is a non-profit organization that finds abandon public spaces in Athens and curates art exhibits in them to rejuvenate the space to engage people in dialogue about culture and development. The show was free and there was a team of knowledgeable docents within each room/section of the exhibit to engage viewers about the works. Our students found this resource tremendously complimented the works. Pictured above detail of Aliki Palaska Breathing Space 2015.  
The exhibit had five rooms/themes. Room 1: Genesis/Trauma, Room 2: Life Struggle: An Affirmation, Room 3: Creativity Into Eternity, Room 4: Touching The Other, Room 5: Return To The Abyss.
One of the docents explaining Sherrie Levine's After Corbet 1-18 2009.
Ana's Mendieta's Blood Sign #1 1974. The image reads: "There is a devil inside me." The work defines her Cuba/Catholic roots. With the discovery of the new world, Christianity was often forced upon the indigenous...in a sort of "My way or the highway" demeanor. In my experience, my brand of Catholicism is infused with rituals. The blending of the shamanic practices was one of the ways Christianity was sold to the indigenous.
Gilbert & George Coming 1975 (detail)
Ioanna Pantazopoulou R.E. Reconfigured Etiquette 2012 This might have been the scene in several homes in the USA this past Thanksgiving while discussing the recent elections. 
Mark Wallinger The Underworld 2004. From artspace.com: The Underworld, a disharmony of sound and image depicting footage from an old BBC recording of Verdi’s Requium, also displayed upside down. The installation, which was exhibited at the Laing Art Gallery in 2004, was composed of 21 video monitors faced inward and played the recording in a continuous loop, creating an eternal sense of cultural torment.
Savvas Chrsitodoulides' Ladders Joined Together depicts a relation of support,
Marco Michalakakos Happy Days (Oh Les Beaux Jours) 2012. Two mountains of shaved velvet. "...the archetypal relationship of male/female is brought forcefully to the fore as if the two mountains are yearning to lean over and touch each other, but sadly are frozen in their rock solid state."
Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios 1995. In this series the artist confronts the violence in her home country of Colombia. The shoes are from kidnapped women, as it was one of the methods used to identify the remains of the victim. 
Mark Wallinger Threshold of the Kingdom 2000. Video on the wall with a soundtrack that might be best suited for a funeral home. The piece reminded me when my brothers and I had to make arrangements for our father's passing. The atmosphere of the home was calm, soft, cloud-like, as if we were arriving. Makes me wonder if this piece was intentionally created to welcome Y2K. 
Martain Kippenberger The Raft of Medusa 1996. This series of 14 lithographs is not quite as large of Gericault's masterpiece hanging in the Louvre. Perhaps Kippenberger's expressive figure aren't quite as contrived as Gericault's, as Kippenberger's is working from the raft of life itself.
Before hitting the newly reopened National Museum of Contemporary Art, we stopped for a bite.
The National Museum of Contemporary Art is currently showing: Urgent Conversations: Athens-Antwerp. Pictured above:  lmagul Menlibayeva Portrait of my Daughter 2, 2010.
 Panamarenko Prova Car 1967 and  Jan Henderikse Houten groentekisten [Wooden Vegetable Crates] 1962.
Costas Tsoclis Sky 1971
 Johanna Kandl Ohne titel (Who's got the big picture?) 2006.
Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven Nursing Activities 1995-98.
Eleni Mylonas Untitled #2 2013 This in the next image made me think of the protesters in Tahir Square at the onset of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011.
Eleni Mylonas Box Man 2011.
Vladislav (Vlad) Monroe StarZ 2005
  Cady Noland Oozewald 1989.
 Costas Varotsos Kateri I Radës, 2014  From the website: For this work, the artist has used the propeller of the Kateri i Radës – a ship full of Albanian immigrants which was rammed by an Italian coast guard speed boat in 1997, resulting in the drowning of many of the passengers. The event was known as the “Otranto tragedy”. This work is connected to The Disembarkation – a work about migrating humanity, which the artist realized in 2012, using the salvaged shell of the Kateri i Radës and is now situated at the port of Otranto.
  Dimitris Alithinos 201 Concealments 1981-2016.
The Chapel of St. George at the top of Mount Lycabettus.
We thought we were going to be all fancy by having dinner on the top of
Mount Lycabettus and take in the sunset. Overcast skies spoiled our plans, but the views were impressive.
We had the restaurant all to ourselves. One of the benefits of being early bird diners.
We hiked to the Ancient Agora on our final morning.
Our students were engaged with their sketchbooks for about an hour. Some make sketched of statues in the Stda of Attalos.

Photo: by Ms. Salli.

Spreading out.
Temple of Hephaistos in the background. Of course the sun come out on our last day.
Drawing the Nymphaion/The Church of the Holy Apostles
Outside Agios Dionisius Areopagus Church in the Kolonaki neighborhood. Being that several of our students are Muslim, they were curious to what an Orthodox church looks like from the inside. We went in, lit candles and took pictures.
We made a last minute appointment at the CAN Christina Androulidaki gallery to catch The Life of Things: Four reflections on precarious objects exhibit. Pictured: Giorgos Gerontides Untitled Collection of Objects 2016
Christina explanations and observations about the work by the four featured artists were intriguing. Pictured: Petros Efstathiadis Untitled #2 (from the Eggs series) 2010
We started the trip the way we ended it-electrical problems on the plane. Our outbound flight was delayed three-plus hours. We got on the plane then we were shuttled back to our gate. Our takeaway other than the plane not crashing into the Med was the silly physical games we played to pass time. As one of our students poetically stated, "We don't want your pizza, we just wanna go home."

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