Synikismos Festival is a newly established annual project for the city of Eleusis and one of the main legacy programs of Eleusis 2021 European Capital of Culture. It is a contemporary performing arts festival where the philosophy, the core values and the methodology of Transition to Euphoria are crystallized, that is our effort to redefine the form and content of today’s public culture.
Thematically it focuses on urgent socio-political phenomena of our times, like the refugee and migration flows as an experience and memory, the rise of nationalism and racism, populism, the depreciation of politics and the lack of interest for the common, the nation-state crisis and the permeability of the national and transnational borders, our relationship towards the Others and the multiple understandings of diversity and the community.
Synikismos Festival attempts to form new conditions for the artistic practice as a whole. It invests in long-term collaborations with artists, in culture professionals’ networking and the dialogue created amongst them and the people of the city. This way we attempt to create a field of artistic and social activity in which artists, the public and the cultural sector professionals meet. This space is not only constituted but is preserved and is essentially enriched by experiential, personal and professional recordings by the festival participants. The participants’ networking, that broadens their work’s horizon, is enwritten in Synikismos, as a festival and a topos, interacting constantly with it as a whole.
Its main concern is the promotion of the contemporary artistic production and the empowerment both of the artist’s position and the role of art in society nowadays. In order to achieve this, the festival focuses on new productions by Greek and international artists, while at the same time invests in actions that strengthen all the actors of the artistic production field (critics, production professionals and the artistic program curators), like networking meetings of curators from other countries with the Greek scene, collaborations with international and European networks of the art field and skills development programs for the different disciplines.
Special emphasis is also put on enhancing the lifecycle of the artistic works from research and creative process to their presentation not only at the festival, but also in other events. Finally, through this strategy, the main aim is to familiarize the public with the particular universe of artists presented during the festival.
In terms of aesthetics, the festival focuses on contemporary forms of performing arts, with emphasis on experiential works that break the traditional boundaries between the creator and the audience, such as documentary theater, experiential performances, experiential installation and site and people specific creations.With site specific projects, we select unconventional spaces that transform everyday points of the City, such as houses, courtyards, shops, streets and primary school into theatrical scenes and places of artistic expression. At the same time, people’s specific works reflect the neighbourhood’s man-made geography and draw on the different communities that make up the neighbourhood. Thus, the works created for the festival largely build a new narrative for Eleusis and Greece as a whole, which is based on the interaction of art with the basis of society today. The artists become researchers, initiates of the modern reality, co-shareholders of the city’s life and memory, and eventually part of the community hosting them. People, on the other hand, come to the center of artistic activity not only as hosts of the great festival that is a festival but also co-creators of the works. They carry memories, put on first person, build new relationships and reinvent the existing and mostly social
experiences of new experiences.
Synikismos Festival is located in the neighbourhood of Upper Eleusis. This area of the city itself has not received the attention it deserves. Spatial development extends beyond the railway lines that consisted of a natural boundary of the city and there 2,500 Asia Minor refugees settled immediately after 1922. By the homonymous festival, the city’s marginalization becomes a center, a pole of attraction for visitors and residents of the area and at the same time its centerpiece artistic life and search.
At the same time, on a larger scale, the festival is located in the wider region of the Southeastern Mediterranean. With an emphasis on the Balkans and the Arab world, it seeks to create bridges of encounter and cooperation between communities and artists in these regions.
The choice of Synikismos has special symbolisms, which refer to the diachronic contemporary aspects of the social being. Etymologically, the greek word Synikismos (neighbourhood) means coexistence. In the case of Eleusis, this etymology is revealed in its true dimension. This is the coexistence of populations with multiple origins from the very first moment of the establishment of the neighbourhood when it was inhabited by refugees from different parts of Asia Minor just after 1922.
During the last century this coexistence was enriched by new waves of refugees, migrants and displaced populations and is enriched even nowadays through modern migratory flows.
Today, a hundred years later, it emerges as a living proof of man’s creativity and the power of life. It demonstrates that the man – and the human coexistence – goes beyond ignoring obstacles, discrimination, difficulties and everyday struggle. That a place that carries trauma, collectively and personally, is a source of inspiration and extrovert creation. That the preservation of the historical collective memory, shapes the conditions with which we envision and plan the future.
Finally, the coexistence of the audiences, artists and professionals highlights the transformative effect of art on the everyday life of a city, confirming the importance of the role of the festival as the great celebration of the city and art together.