I have so many other things to say about Greece, but I never did get around to talking about last Wed. in Athens. So…
I debated how much of my experience in the Athens protest I should post here, both photos and words. Eventually I decided that I should tell and show as much as I can, if only because I see increasingly that what’s being shown on the news doesn’t really tell the whole story of what happened at these protests.
The punchline, of course, for the media is that three people died in these protests. And of course that’s major, shocking, terrible news that should indeed be reported as part of coverage of the protests.
But none of these stories talk about how the demonstration began, or what it was like before the tear gas started and anarchists began lighting banks on fire. That part isn’t as exciting. This protest began with an almost carnival-like atmosphere, with the crowds thronging the streets stopping to buy pistachios and coffee from vendors. The majority of those marching were men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, blue collar workers organized neatly with hats, shirts, and flags according to their union. Others included married couples, middle-aged women, and young parents holding the hands of their 5 and 6-year old children.
This protest began with banners calling politicans thieves and the EU leaders facists, yes, but it also began with one group playing a John Lennon song, “Working Class Hero.” (And yes, they played the Green Day version, which I found ironic because they were anti-capitalists marching to the tune of a song that’s now part of a Broadway musical.)
At the modern art museum Jeu de Palme in Paris, I saw an exhibit put together by an artist asked to create a piece for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. She began by interviewing some 40 Auschwitz survivors about their experiences. Then she took the videotape, slowed it down, and spliced together the zoomed-in images of each survivor’s face between hearing the question and beginning to respond. The text accompanying this exhibit called this a survey of “the space beyond language, seeking to capture non-linguistic memory” in recording each person’s kaleidoscope of expressions they sunk into their thoughts.
A different photography exhibit in Jeu de Palme featured a quote from that artist that I thought touched on the same theme: “The art of the camera is seeking to capture the moments when the interior becomes the surface, when a person shows on their face in the moments when they believe no one is looking what they truly feel.”
I’ve been trying to take more pictures in the spirit of both these ideas. So here are some pictures I took during the first two hours of the protest. Look at the people in these photos and tell me if the space beyond language that these people are occupying is one purely of anger. In some cases, yes, could be. In all, I don’t think so.
Arg, I can’t figure out how to divide this up into separate galleries. I probably should have tried to learn something about WordPress before this trip. I keep trying to change the order of the pictures but can’t. This is really irritating. So, the pictures I wanted to appear last are first, and the ones I wanted first are last. Grrr.
Note: The EU flag sign, the guys smashing the bank camera, the children at the protest.
At some point I’ll type up my notes from what happened that day.