Exhaustive analyses and talks about the financial crisis and the increased sluggishness and inefficiency of Greek economy, images of the central Athenian streets being violated and smashed during the frequent demonstrations and strikes have always been some of the favorite topics for the Media throughout the latest months. However, what the Media (not even the Greek one) will never talk about are those tiny, but crucial actions that individuals or groups take either in the artistic field or in the context of activism as an answer to the crisis. One of those initiatives is the project “Faces and stories of Athinas Street” held by the LIGHTROOM projects (LRp), a non-profit organization aiming to promote contemporary Greek photography.
Even if at first sight the idea of the project seems to be simple, in fact it is quite radical and progressive because it gives images and names to the immediate and tangible outcomes of the crisis that Greece faces, which undoubtedly is not just economic. The talk about the crisis is no more just a general assumption about the faceless Greek state or the banking system. Sixteen trainee photoreporters introduce the profile and the story of sixteen shopkeepers of Athinas street, one of the most commercial streets in Athens. Precisely, sixteen gigantic portraits are exposed on the frontage of the outstanding building that is located on the corner of Athinas and Ermou Street. In addition, the viewers, the citizens or even the visitors of the historical center of Athens, apart from just observing the portraits, have the chance through the QR codes that are on the walls of different stores of Athinas street, to learn and explore the culture of commerce, the story of a central road and the daily life and routine of its residents.
What is quite interesting is the fact that the majority of the shopkeepers who were interviewed feel nostalgic towards the “glorious” past and is disappointed with the current condition of the area, claiming that the economic crisis is one of the reasons for that. “Athinas street is not just a way of living for me, it’ s my life” says one of the interviewee. The visitors indeed through this project come across with “the lives of others” and the way their lives changed through the process of time and cultural and social changes.
“Inanimate object, do you have a soul?” wondered once Mallarmé. However, objects and pieces of art cannot talk by themselves. Respectively, just the portraits wouldn’t be enough without the story that is hidden behind those faces and is being unfold throughout the interviews. In this case technology plays a key role as liaison between the residents of that specific area and the visitors who have the opportunity through interactive learning to communicate with a space, to explore the life that is taking place to that specific space and to experience a different aspect of the crisis. The aspect that is less known.