Iliana Fokianaki

‘Everything is new from now on.’

Our British Council team in Greece caught up with iLiana Fokianaki, the founder of State of Concept in Athens, to see how she was coping during lockdown. 

Tell us about your work and practice

I founded State of Concept in Athens in 2013 and have been director ever since. The centre is the first permanent non-profit contemporary art institution in Greece, with an annual programme.

My work explores the relationship between art, how power is formed, and how those things change under the influence of geopolitics, identity and cultural and anthropological histories. I am currently working on three projects. One is for Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam - a lecture series of feminist gatherings inspired by and in conversation with the writings of Silvia Federici, entitled Gossips. Through these we discuss the word ‘Gossip’ in its original term from 16th century English, meaning women’s friendships and gatherings. The project will move to Athens in July and will continue in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Athens.

The second is a solo show of the artist Kapwani Kiwanga that will be presented at the Witte de With Center of Contemporary Art in September. It discusses flora as resistance and looks at the history of the transatlantic slave trade - both projects will be soon coming to Athens to be further developed for State of Concept.

My third project is a touring exhibition of the Syrian film collective the Rojava Film Commune. Its next stop will be in New Zealand at Artspace in Auckland - provided of course, that we have no second global wave of Covid-19.

How has Covid-19 affected your daily working routine?

First and foremost, I have become even more aware of how privileged I am. The fact we have a roof over our heads and the concept of ‘guaranteed’ safety is important to realise. This has made me very grateful on a daily basis, especially with all the news coming in of refugees being even more displaced and people losing their jobs. 

I must admit the pandemic has changed my routine very little. I usually wake up early and work from home, either reading, listening to podcasts, or getting lost in internet research. I stopped travelling and this hiatus was a blessing at least for me. Slowing down was an unexpected gift. Again, it made me realise how easily we take a plane in our profession and how we should be more conscious of the carbon footprint we make.

Lastly, it’s made me reevaluate my priorities in relation to my work. I have been drafting new projects that respond more directly to major questions of our time - societal and environmental violence, racism, sexism and xenophobia.

What has been most challenging?

Not being able to have a drink and dinner with friends.

What has been most surprising?

The quietness of the city centre. It was almost like a sci-fi film.

What innovative ways have you seen artists and arts organisations adapt the way they work to cope with the pandemic in your country?

I think it is too soon to say that we have found methods of overcoming the difficulties yet. We need time to actually understand the new conditions in our field. However, there has been a lot of collective action and discussion in relationship to working rights and support structures that did not exist in Greece at all.

Have you learnt anything new about yourself and your country during this time?

That we can act responsibly in times of danger. We usually are quite a rebellious bunch.

Could you recommend three artists in your country that we should check out?

Three are too few. The work of Thodoris Prodromidis, Loukia Alavanou, Dionysis Kavalieratos, Vangelis Vlachos, Yota Ioannidou, Margarita Bofiliou, Apostolos Georgiou and many more.

When everything returns to normal what will be the first cultural experience you will seek out?

I am very much against normality as a concept and do not believe we’ll get back to anything. Everything is new from now on.

Want to know more about iLiana Fokianaki and her work? 

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