The Greek Crisis for Dummies – A Visual Tour

From the Series: Beyond the "Greek Crisis": Histories, Rhetorics, Politics

Photo by Georgios Giannopoulos, licensed under CC BY SA.

During the past years, on-line literature and media has been extended to the “YouTube” world, or to be more precise the YouTube world of homemade films has entered and recreated the sphere of public commentary. Since the 2009 economic crisis started spreading around the world, these “new” practices of YouTube video production, which comprise a significant part of everyday media and commentary, has flourished. Different kinds of groups or individuals gained the ability to re-create a part of their “reality,” visualizing it and through this means sharing it with the rest of the world - possibly waiting for its comments.

As far as the Greek crisis is concerned, many videos have been made in order to explain why this crisis has occurred in Greece. Similar videos explaining the financial status of other countries, such as the U.S., had already started circulating around the internet several months before. The main burst of videos on the Greek crisis started appearing in 2010. The fact that several groups have produced visual comments on the crisis means that people are starting to get a grip on the situation. Furthermore the circulation of such videos through YouTube surfing, e-mail exchanging, posting on social networking pages strengthens this attempt at public awakening to “the truth” of the causes and the consequences of the Greek crisis. A good example is The Greek Crisis Explained (Episodes 1-3) which was uploaded to YouTube as a submission by the award-winning motion design studio NOMINT, based in Athens, for the Bitfilm digital film festival held annually in Hamburg, Germany (December 2010). The creative team from Athens comments on the current situation in Greece in a humoristic way: “To NOMINT's eyes, Greece is a spoiled young girl and the debt, once a lovely pet sheep, appears now to be a humongous creepy monster 
about to devour her.” Despite the humorous tone of the video, there still are some important unanswered questions. “Will anyone come to Greece’s rescue? Will Greece ever be happy again?” Another team work video is Urban Fragments: Athens from a Distance which was created by archIV+, a multidisciplinary architecture and design office, bringing together architecture, urbanism, fashion design, cultural anthropology and the digital technology. As a member of archIV+ team I was involved in the production of a video for the Urban Transcripts annual exhibit that occurred in (December) 2010 in Athens. As a team we tried to present different aspects of the city, as we have experienced it, while visiting since we all live in remote cities around Greece, By reproducing already available on-line images (and not producing new ones) we emphasized the ability of making a point by recycling the “on-line visual stock.” At the same time we were confident that citizens of the city and other visitors, tourists, etc. would have to live in the same places, view the same images and get the general “Athenian feeling” during their stay. These images are fragmental glimpses of Greek “reality.” “The micro-scale of life at the streets of Athens, the Unknown City and the unknown cities that comprise Athens. One edge from a national highway and the other edge of a railway. Attiki prefecture and the abandonment of the center from Athenians. The almost exclusive cultural production of a Country, the cultural nucleus, 50% of the Greek population. Immigrant reception, Piraeus, the Port. The universities, the Parks, the archaeological spaces. New Squares at Exarchia, the bourgeoisie of Exarchia, the theatrical productions, the anarchists of Exarchia, the coppers, the infrastructure. These are some of the Urban Fragments that we hold about Athens, either as visitors or architects (at a distance). Synthesis of these fragments can only materialize in a palimpsest showing the misery of Athens from one side and exonerating the citizens that chose -by chance- to live in this city.” These images of the city coincide with images of crisis to a large extent, since the images of Greek crisis, as far as public imaginary is concerned, have become identical to the ones of the “Athenian crisis” even for Greeks themselves. This is largely due to media bombing of a few iconic images connected to the crisis, played again and again on television and newspapers. This coincidence was something we had realized while collecting the pictures of the video and was in our opinion one strong aspect of the piece.

The next wave of productive rage that contributed to the on-line documentation of the Greek “crisis” was in July 2011 when “Aganaktismenoi” (angry citizens) took over squares throughout Europe. This phenomenon also occurred in Greece sparking public gatherings in squares and video creations. Apart from the artistic side of this kind of group expression, several documentaries and short films about this movement were created by journalists around the globe. Aaron Lewis for instance, shot a short reportage-film for Journeyman Pictures, the “Greek Tragedy – Greece.”

Journeyman Pictures is considered to be one of London’s leading independent distributors of topical news features, documentaries and footage. The video presents the actions of the Ministers of Parliament, the reactions of the citizens, and the interaction between police forces and civilians. As an epilogue in the film, several people are presented expressing their opinion regarding the brain drain that will occur soon, their uncertainty about the future and their hope for katharsis (purification) at the end, as happens in Greek tragedies. Furthermore several home videos also were created by individuals who wanted to contribute to a public awakening. A great example of everyday still images from Syntagma square in Athens is Invisible Limits-Violence (Greece Syntagma 2011) which was uploaded by silvertender925 on 9 July 2011.

“Error 404 – Democracy not found” is another contemporary comment on the crisis.

Silvertender925 states: “The best thing I have ever done while sitting on my couch.” The video actually encourages Greeks to wake up, get up from their couches and participate in the revolution that started in Syntagma square. A citizen’s comment on violence – a cry deploring the broken limits of democracy through violence. “The hardest part for me was to collect these pictures (+ memories) without getting sick. Sick of our police, sick of our government, sick of our fellow Europeans.... WE WON'T GIVE UP, WE WON'T GIVE IN...WE ARE GREEKS AND GREECE BELONGS TO HER CHILDREN!!!” The heated situation in Greece can be clearly sensed through silvertender925’s words which coincide with those of the rest of the angry citizens. “Error 404 – Democracy not found” is another contemporary comment on the crisis using the error in the system sign to comment on the error in the system! Citizens of all kinds who have found different ways to express their anger, have employed lots of different phrases and created several decades of signs in order to publish their objections and opinions. This action has been happening forever in similar demonstrations but nowadays it has become a tool that is also being used by virtual protestors and keeps feeding an infinite circle of new slogans that are being circulated from the web to the streets and vice versa.

All these different kinds of videos aim to increase public awareness, not only domestic but also international and each one tries to accomplish it in a unique way. Even their on-line circulation is not identical in each case, but the ability to attach the link to an e-mail, post it on a web-site, on a social network page or just upload it on YouTube (or another on-line video platform e.g. vimeo) creates unprecedented maximum global access-ability. Political subjects that had for years been a matter of discussion in circles of old men have, with the help of this new technology, become accessible to people of different ages, social background, and gender. Political commenting is not a strict conversation nowadays, it can also be a humoristic comic video, an anti-informing video of irony, an act of contemporary expression using contemporary linguistic means and aesthetics.