At first, we had to encounter each other: we are seven different people with diverse research interests that sometimes happen to overlap in intriguing ways. Whenever this occurs, the amount of interesting ideas becomes a collective mold that generates fruitful exchanges and conversations. Starting on the basis of long discussions we got to learn a lot of things about each other in an interesting, and certainly unprecedented way; throughout our online meetings we decided upon working on separate projects but consistently sharing our insights on each individual project.
Our main common theme has been the experience(s) of the pandemic, in the socio-political context of Greece, looking at them through the prism of the concepts of encounter and community. How are encounters shaped during the pandemic? In which ways is the public sphere, or the public space of the cities, affected by the new reality and everydayness of the lockdowns and of physical distancing? How are communities affected by the inability to physically meet in common spaces? What does community mean in this newfound online everydayness and how are these communities shaped?
Working on individual projects seems somehow inevitable since all of us experience everydayness in a different way through our personal lives, our jobs, and areas of living- between Athens, Thessaloniki & Mytilene. So, we get to examine our subjects in relation to the specificities of our own experiences and ways of living. Thus, Andreas is conducting fieldwork and video interviews, focusing on “Protomagias Square” (May First Square), one of the largest open spaces in the center of Athens. He does so, in an attempt to examine and map the different encounters and interactions, between groups of people and the different communities that started to experience the square as safe territory for decompression, relaxation, and care-full exchanges since the start of the pandemic. Andreas is highlighting the change of the usage of open-air public spaces by tracing a net of connections that happen rather unexpectedly in the context of public open space, the square: whether these connections start with the throw of a ball, a group game, or an exchange of glances.
Electra is conducting interviews with film festival professionals in Greece via zoom, to look into the ways in which they engaged with their audiences in their online editions. She also examines the ways in which this new reality affected and influenced internal matters, professional relationships, and daily interactions in film festival teams. The main subject in question is how they responded to the challenge of transferring their programming online. What were their initial feelings? Which types of changes can we spot in the dynamics of the teams? How difficult was it to create online film festivals in terms of organization particularly in the Greek context?
Gefsi’s project experiments with an autoethnographic approach. She draws upon the concept of remote/distant learning. More specifically, she highlights the fact that remote learning leads to an unusual fragmentation of several aspects that constitute communication itself: the voice/ sound, the image, and physical presence. The main idea of the project is that these three elements of communication are interdependent and their correlation is apparent when one of them is absent or distorted. Carrying out sensory ethnography with herself, she wonders and puts into question: What constitutes digital communication if you break it apart into different sections and how do feeling and understanding manifest within this context?
Ioanna’s methodology combines artistic research & somatic approaches. Her inquiry is looking into the concepts of the confined body and the limitations of the performance during the unfolding pandemic. She collects material, ranging from photographs to texts, to interviews, to sketches, trying to unveil the challenges that the communication between her community of dancers has to face during the pandemic. She highlights that, although there might be ways to transfer fragments of the experience of the performative act, the lack of the unifying factor that is the dynamics built between body and space, leaves performing artists in a state of numbness.
Although we’ve been working towards different directions, the main focus in all of our projects has been the attempt to understand, grasp, and examine a set of changes that are currently unfolding, because of and throughout the course of the pandemic. These changes relate to the concept of the encounter and its linguistic & meaning-full connotations. In its full-blown glory an “encounter” is unexpected and unmeasurable: it calls for action and reaction. An “encounter” is also, automatically, a common experience. It is never one, it is fluid and can be experienced from different standpoints.
In which ways, however, is methodologically challenging to study the ‘encounter’ at a time when the very idea of the (physical) encounters is challenged? Through our preliminary outputs, we could argue that even if many of the activities or projects like the university classes, the film festivals, or performances, found the online way to continue during this period of physical distancing, at the same time the experiences in front of the screens are fragmented, entangled in often uncomfortable ways within our personal time and space, and ultimately they seem to amplify with anxiety our already precarious working and living conditions.
to be continued…