walk #1: Metaxourgeio / Keramikos / Votanikos

Thinking about my public space ideas, I decided to walk around areas of my city, Athens, that are of particular interest for me. Thinking about my body/flesh – corporeal memory – collective memory idea, I decided to see if my artwork that touches the corporeal memory subject can get integrated into a public space with a certain history, which will relate to collective memory. Perception is a concept connected with reality, which is also connects with time and space. So I am imagining that my figures could represent also this aspect of perception, public perception let’s say… I think I find this parallel quite intriguing. Anyway…

So last week I walked once again the streets of Metaxourgeio, Keramikos and Votanikos, areas that I know quite well and with a long history behind. I took some photos, noted a few things, wrote down some of the historical background of the areas, and let’s see how it goes…

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Metaxourgeio and Votanikos are two adjacent districts in the northeastern part of Athens’ historical centre. Areas with a history that goes back to ancient times, with the area of Keramikos right next to them, where the first ancient public cemetery was. Keramikos during ancient times was the district of craftsmen working with ceramics, and this is how it got its name.

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Three big ancient streets, that remain until today, passed by Metaxourgeio, Keramikos and Votanikos districts: Piraeus street, which united the city centre with the port of Athens, “Iera Odos” (or Holy Road as translated) that united Athens with the city of Elefsina, and where the ancient feast of “Elefsinia Mistiria” passed by, one of the biggest and holiest feast in ancient Greece, and also the road that united Plato’s Academy with Keramikos area.

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In more recent history, Metaxourgeio was named after the silk factory that operated there in the beginning of the 20th century, and that today houses the Gallery of Athens. Because of the factory, the district was quickly developed as a residential area many of the people who worked there. Metaxourgeio was the heart of the city entertainment up to the 50s due to the many bars, restaurants, theatres, and cinemas. Metaxourgeio and Votanikos were also the heart of “rebetiko” music, a folk kind of music connected with poverty, drugs, love and more.

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After the second half of the 20th century, the districts started to get neglected and gradually lost their past glow. Votanikos gradually developed as a mainly industrial area, with some big nightclubs sometimes controlled by mafia. Today, Metaxourgeio and Keramikos have started to regain their glow, as they are once again popular nightlife districts, although parts of them still remain neglected. During the last years, many theatres, galleries and art spaces have opened once again in these areas, giving Metaxourgeio an underground artistic essence. Votanikos still remains a mainly industrial district.

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