AVATON [Sanctuary]

Anarchy,Democracy and other ways of Political Participation

Avaton is a documentary and at the same time a visual experiment linked to Ursula’s PhD research in the department of Visual Cultures in Goldsmiths University.

The film deals with one of the issues arising from the research – the issue of public space ‘management’ – and investigates the differences and potentials of state owned public spaces and squatted self-managed commons.

The focal point of the film is Exarcheia area of Athens, the main public square [plateia] in its centre and a squatted park[parkaki] also in the same area.

The film editor is Haris Lalousis.

Idealized notions of public spaces, as uncontested spaces of democracy and civilization, are frequently the leading visions of the official Greek State politics concerning issues such as the design of space and extending to the political rights of the citizens. AVATON challenges the assumption that public space is a space that exists ‘naturally’ in the city and also that it is created and offered by the State to its citizens but is instead a malleable space that is constantly contested and created by actions and forces both of the authority and of social groups.

The film investigates a number of contemporary actions, deriving from different social groups, that took place during the last two years in Exarhia area of Athens and influenced drastically both the constitution of the public sphere and the actual shape of the public space. The first key study, Exarhia square gains its notoriety as the core of urban warfare taking place annually between rioters and the police. At the same time it is the symbolic centre of alternative political groups, a leisure space for students and young people, a dealing point for drug addicts and the commercial centre of the neighborhood. Claims for ‘publicness’ and rights to the square are the outcomes of multiple contestations that occasionally take the form of violent evictions and struggles.

The second key study, Parkaki emerged after the urban riots of December 2008. Parkaki, a space that is practically illegal, is regulated by an open assembly that operates on a consensus base .Parkaki is a platform of free-speech and expression for the majority of its users and at the same time problematic and dysfunctional space both for the authority and the mainstream media.

The film raises questions about the identity and formation of the public space, the continuously contested and instable character of the notion of public and searches for altenative methods of administering the space  and therefore new potentials of political participation.


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