Xiromero, a province in Etoloakarnania known for its festivals. A rural area, difficult, arid where the festivals, however, had and still have a dominant position. Once upon a time, two or three festivals could be held in a city at the same time on the same day, and the inhabitants would sit in line to get a piece of paper with a priority number on who would dance first.

Dry Day and the festivals of the wider region are also the theme presented by the artistic group that will represent Greece this year at the 60th Venice Biennale. The group consists of the composer Thanasis Deligiannis, the dramatist and philologist Yiannis Michalopoulos, who also founded the artistic group, the visual artist and cinematographer Elia Kalogiannis, the photographer and documentarist Giorgos Kyvernitis, the sound engineer and sound designer Kostas Haikalis and the visual artist and architect Fotis Sagonas.

The project for Venice is based on research on the festivals that had preceded it for about a year and a half, mainly by Thanasis Deligiannis and Yiannis Michalopoulos in the context of the Margaroni Residency after a commission from Onassis Culture. Fotis Sagonas, who has undertaken the difficult task of transferring the idea to a space of specific dimensions in the Greek pavilion, in the famous gardens of Venice, speaking to Deutsche Welle says: “The central idea has to do with the Greek festival. We transcribe the landscape, in which the festival appears and develops, the route from the field to the center of the square. We trace and map the social relations, the cultural relations, the gender relations within it… We create an artistic installation.”

The watering can that dominates the artistic installation “Xiromero”

Water, the source of life

Projections, sounds, lighting and a moving watering machine are included in this visual installation. Water as a source of life, as the basis of agricultural cultivation. “The feeling will be that of a walk that starts from the square of a village” says one of the artists at the official presentation of the Greek participation in the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST). “Also the watering can rotates and gives orders to all the sources and thus sets its time. It goes very slowly, alone and depending on the position it is in, there is another situation in the booth which is constantly changing” adds another member of the group.

It is difficult to describe in words the images that artists create in their minds and on their papers, away from the physical presentation space. A few weeks remain until April 20, when the 60th Venice Biennale opens, the most important international exhibition of contemporary art that takes place every two years in Venice. The general title of the exhibition this year is “Strangers everywhere” and the artistic director is the Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa. As always, the exhibits are gathered in the two main areas of the exhibition: in the gardens of Venice, where the national pavilions are also housed, and in the old shipyards.

Ruins at Rafa
Ruins at Rafa

The war in Gaza overshadows this year’s Biennale

This year, however, the once Peaceful Republic is shaken by the geographically distant war in Gaza. About 9,000 artists and more have signed an open letter asking for the exclusion of the state of Israel due to the war. In the letter they state that the Biennale in the past was positioned against Russia due to the war in Ukraine while for years South Africa did not participate due to of Apartheid. The signatories are asking for something similar to be done now.

We asked the group of Greek artists if they have discussed the issue and what is their position. Yannis Michalopoulos, responding to Deutsche Welle, says: “Boycotting the artistic work is not the best way to protest. The institutional expression of a protest is not very effective. Certainly, however, as artists we understand the indignation, which we ourselves feel before this completely unequal war of the government of the state of Israel. We think of the victims of this war and we certainly understand our own difficulty, being a national representation we have a perception of what is being done and which is not in line with the official policy of the Greek state”. Other members of the group – because group as they say does not mean absolute identification of views – adopt a more dynamic support for the Palestinians.

In closing, we should mention that the Curator of the Greek Pavilion is Panos Giannikopoulos and the implementing body is EMST.