Unlikely Perspectives; Snapshots of Fleeting Home is a project of collective memory, photographed by the students of the Picturing Athens class and curated by those in the Curating Athens class, Spring 2020. Here is the curatorial statement of this final, virtual, exhibit.
As students in Athens, we experienced a version of Athens as neither tourists nor residents. This viewpoint contains a unique duality: we were unfamiliar with the city and actively developing our understanding at every turn, but were also visitors, forced to contend with the surface-level myth of Greek culture and history we had been fed by American media. The photos in this exhibit trace our collective discovery that the reality of Athens had little to do with our preconceptions and instead is layered and complex . It also traces the following deconstruction of those preconceptions; a deconstruction which involved Mama Mia just as much as it involved the neoclassical construction of Greece as the utopian birthplace of the Western world.
Alongside our studies of Greek institutions and histories, the mundane and domestic realm retained a sense of wonder. Daydreams of doric columns were replaced with visions of apartment balconies, reflecting a pinkish hue from the sunset. Cafes became not only a place to recaffeinate but also to observe unfamiliar social norms unfold. This ethnographic inquiry sprung out of both our limited Greek language abilities as well as our position as students. We sought to understand a new social landscape while traveling between familiar spaces in our Arcadia apartments and our Center in Varnava Square. Throughout the semester, these spaces of familiarity grew. But after an abrupt and premature departure from the city, we were left wondering how much closer to Athens we could have grown if we had been given the chance to stay.
The genre of snapshot photography lends great accessibility to the medium, allowing for spontaneity and instinct. Anyone with a camera can capture Athens, but through the collective experience of the student observer we captured a very specific lens into the city. Each photo contends with widely held cultural conventions about what is beautiful in the city, effectively reinventing the stereotypical gaze onto Athens into something more contemplative and personal. These photos are embedded with emotion, memory, and the lived experience of developing ways of being and belonging in a new place.
Many congratulations to all!