Embros Reactivation, Athens, Greece, Credit: Georgios Makkas, 2011

Critical Performance Spaces: Participation and Anti-Austerity Protests in Athens

By Gigi Argyropoulou

The social and political conditions in Greece during recent years have given rise to an engagement with questions of participatory democracy, and challenged notions of what such participation might entail. These questions have arisen both in the wider social and political spheres as well as within the field of contemporary performance. In 2010, the Greek debt-crisis led to drastic neoliberal reforms that produced a social crisis without precedent in Europe. The International Monetary Fund, The European Central Bank and the European Commission offered Greece loans towards restoring its economy, but these were tied to harsh austerity measures that included radical cuts in public spending, salary and pension reductions, tax increases and a general dismantling of the welfare state. This crisis also gave rise to a series of collective struggles, which, in some moments, took an almost insurrectionary form. While public social support systems collapsed during these years, citizens, cultural workers and activists created self-instituted, bottom-up structures to absorb shocks and express their collective indignation. These structures included community assemblies, medical clinics, social kitchens, medicine exchange networks, solidarity food centers, legal aid hubs, and reactivated cultural venues. Political theorist Alexandros Kioupkiolis argues that these collective actions articulated the demand for another mode of democracy and yet, he qualifies, these emergent radical alternatives remained “unstable, fugitive, fragile” and “have yet to succeed in creating effective expanded democratic counter powers.”[1] Indeed, despite the recent election of a new government in Greece, which has publicly committed to restoring elements of the social welfare system, many of the self-organized initiatives remain active and the questions they provoke, unanswered.

This article seeks to examine theories of participation in relation to the production of cultural space in neoliberal Athens, following Chantal’s Mouffe proposition that critical artistic practices can play a central role in challenging domination by creating a multiplicity of sites where hegemony is contested. [2] I specifically examine a theatre occupation in Athens at the outset of the crisis in November 2011, to explore both the ways in which citizen participation and alternate forms of sociality were instituted and the subsequent shape that the struggle for radical democracy has taken there.

The Limits of Participation

In Environmental Theatre, Richard Schechner discusses the notion of participation as that which transforms understandings of performance as bounded or self-contained work, to performance as social event:

What happens to a performance when the usual agreements between performers and spectators are broken? What happens when performer and spectators actually make contact? When they talk to each other and touch? Crossing the boundaries between theatre and politics, art and life, performance event and social event, stage and auditorium? Audience participation expands the field of what performance is because audience participation takes place precisely at the point when the performance breaks down and becomes a social event. In other words, participation is incompatible with the idea of self-contained, autonomous, beginning, middle and end artwork.

Schechner, Environmental Theatre [3]
Figure 1. Photo Credit: Georgios Makkas, Embros Reactivation, 2011

For Schechner, audience participation can produce unexpected structures and social encounters—modes of (performative) praxis that operate between politics and art, life and performance—by crossing boundaries of established roles (actors and spectators), and of spatial divisions (auditorium and stage). In Schechner’s proposition, relationality and participation appear intertwined. However, both of those terms have been problematized in recent years—participation, in itself, is not a radical practice anymore with the boundary-breaking connotations it had in the 1960’s and 70s.[4]

While the lack of participation in societal and political processes in late capitalism gave rise to diverse localized bottom-up experiments of social praxis, subsequently, neoliberal institutions and governmental policies often recuperated such practices in order to contain demands of truly democratic participation by proposing structures that sought to nominally ‘include’ the public. Within corporate and institutional domains, participation appears as a series of practices seeking to explore modes of praxis that would increase citizen involvement in decision-making processes within a democratic order. However, these practices have been criticized as simply producing “greater productivity at lower cost,” often supporting precarious working conditions by masking unpaid labor for participatory forms; or as mechanisms to “conceal and reinforce oppression and injustices in their various manifestations.”[5] In some cases such participatory practices are utilized to reinforce the implementation of top-down hegemonic plans, by manipulating public opinion and defusing civic disagreement. For instance, structures of controlled participation such as questionnaires or online participatory interactions are often used to justify pre-given urban regeneration and gentrifications plans. While this is a global paradigm, similar practices were utilized in Athens during the crisis. Municipality participatory projects such as ‘Post it 4 Athens’ asks citizens ‘what they want in their city?’ as if this were a singular question independent from other conditions.[6] Similarly, such practices have been utilized by Rethink Athens a privately funded urban plan for the transformation of the city center. In sum, participation today is not unrelated to a series of pressing questions around the potentially muddy politics of producing a ‘social event’ in public space. Who initiates this encounter and why? What is the actual role of each participant? What differentiates this mode of encounter from neoliberal models of participation?

In the field of the arts, since the late 1990s, there has been an expansion of practice and critical engagement with social and site-specific forms of art. ‘Real’ people and/or communities are often invited to be part of such work either as participants or collaborators. Often there is an attempt to create a localized temporary community or an ‘in situ’ assemblage of people. The traditional roles of the artist, the curator and critic are contested, as what comprises contemporary art practice itself is brought into question. As Hal Foster observes, artists began to describe their projects as “platforms” and “stations”, as “places that gather and then disperse,” emphasizing the casual communities they are bringing into being.[7] Exploring the “techniques and tools at their disposal” these artists or artists-as-curators attempt to create new imaginaries of public space, civic action and places of connectedness and intersubjective encounter.[8]

Nicolas Bourriaud in his book Relational Aesthetics drew on examples of artistic practice in the 1990s that focused on the realm of social interactions to propose that art no longer sought “to represent utopias but rather (attempted) to construct concrete spaces.”[9] Claire Bishop criticized Bourriaud’s conception of “relational aesthetics” and raised questions around the quality of the encounter, exclusion, and also the meaning of “democracy” in this context.[10]

Engaging with dramaturgies of the social domain and spatiotemporal dialectics of the urban landscape, such practices devise forms that produce concrete spaces. Recently, these concrete spaces take unexpected and distinct form, from a self-built structure on the seashore of Portugal, [11] to a queer site-specific performance in a flat in Exarheia in Athens,[12] to a re-enactment of a historical political event, in Yorkshire,[13] to a hybrid space that engages with the diverse city needs in Galata,[14] and various other modes of practice, including performative urban journeys, experiential installations and community work with marginalized social groups. Such spatial interventions are involved in the complex politics of their locales and are often intertwined with its specific conditions and restraints, cultural and social imaginaries, political landscapes, urban environment, and local art traditions. The micro-politics of the artwork are inseparable from the macro-politics of the urban, and the policies of the institutions that often support these works. Needless to say, such art manifestations appear both inside and outside, within and against neoliberal structures. The questions to ask of participatory practices today is: do these forms of cultural practice simply replicate the conditions of the social in which they already exist—the commodification of social space in the neoliberal city—or can they offer an alternative to those conditions? How might contemporary participatory practices manifest in order to resist the practices of recuperation and incorporation by other agendas?

Jacques Rancière in his book On the Shore of Politics notes that participation as understood by contemporary democracy derives from two conceptions of differing origin: “the reformist idea of necessary mediations between the center and the periphery, and the revolutionary idea of the permanent involvement of citizen-subjects in every domain.”[15] The admixture of the two positions produces a “mongrel” idea of democratic participation, Rancière continues, that is usually reduced to a question of filling up the spaces left empty by power. Genuine participation, he argues, is something different: the invention of an “unpredictable subject” who momentarily occupies the street, the factory, the theatre or the museum – rather than simply “filling up empty spaces,” through forms of participation dependent on the dominant order.[16] Following Rancière’s proposition, emerging artistic practices might practically perform how this momentary participation can be produced, delineate the spaces that make it possible and, reveal how forms of genuine participation might give rise to wider forms of participation in societal and political structures.

In the following pages I discuss the performance group Mavili Collective’s occupation of the Embros Theater in Athens, a laboratory for such questions of participation. I was a researcher-participant in this collective experiment: both a participant and co-organizer of the initial occupation, a member of Mavili Collective, and a participant-observer in the ongoing open assembly. This momentary collective form of participation challenged the established boundaries between “theatre and politics, art and life, performance event and social event, stage and auditorium”[17] and through curatorial and performative structures, transformed a performance event into ‘a socio-political event’ and vice versa. This temporary critical counter-hegemonic site gave rise to other emergent forms of democratic participation that questioned the limits of popular decision-making, ideals of democratic inclusion and modes of relation to the dominant order. In its evolution, this occupation instituted different structures of artistic and political participation to respond to the socio-political conditions in Greece. The trajectory of the occupation of Embros, as the discussion in the following pages will demonstrate, complicates the potentialities of counter-hegemonic structures within neoliberal regimes.

Mobilizing the Theatre

On the 11th of November 2011, the Mavili Collective, a group of theatre makers and scholars, occupied the disused theatre building of Embros, in the gentrified neighborhood of Psyrri in Athens’ city center. The Mavili Collective was formed in 2010 to respond to Greece’s precarious socio-cultural conditions and initially sought to address the government’s lack of stable institutional framework and infrastructure for the arts. Embros, a public theatre, had remained closed and disused since early 2007 for unidentified reasons. Following a public letter to the Minister of Culture demanding a coherent public policy for the arts, and a conference that called for public participation of cultural workers, the Mavili Collective instituted the Embros occupation.

The occupation positioned itself as a ‘re-activation,’ seeking to differentiate its practices and intentions from the dominant form of anarchic squatting popular in the Athenian activist landscape since the 1980s. The Embros reactivation sought to not solely occupy space but to revive and repurpose the (disused) theatre, bringing together diverse forms of practice, and questioning what theatre and performance could do in the context of Athens’ socio-economic crisis and cultural impoverishment. As Mavili stated in its manifesto:

We aim to re-activate and re-occupy this space temporarily through our own means, and propose an alternative model of collective management, and forms of performance work. For the next eleven days Mavili Collective will reconstitute Embros as a public space for exchange, research, debate, meeting and re-thinking […] We act in response to the general stagnation of thinking and action in our society, through collective meeting, thinking and direct action by reactivating a disused historical building in the center of Athens.

Mavili Collective, ‘Reactivate Manifesto’[18]
Figure 2. Photo Credit: Georgios Makkas, Embros Reactivation, 2011

Over the course of twelve-days, 291 artists, scholars and practitioners, ranging from emerging artists to established practitioners, students and university professors, activists, and members from immigrant community groups working across multiple disciplines, presented work at Embros. Breaking conventional agreements between spectators and performers as well as the hierarchical forms of categorization of the art market, the occupation of Embros brought together a generation of makers across the fields of theatre, performance, dance and visual arts. The twelve-day program sought to offer an ‘incomplete’ proposal for cultural praxis in response to the precarious cultural conditions in Greece pre- and during the crisis. The collective outlined a series of new strands of activity that sought to playfully subvert normative forms of artistic and theoretical practice:

Open classes: For academics from across disciplines to give lectures in a different kind of classroom; Live archive: An attempt to document and archive ‘live’ the currently undocumented Greek ‘new work’[19] across the fields of theatre, dance and performance of the last decade; Debate: Discussions on urgent issues in art, performance and the community. Starting principles: Playing with the double meaning of the Greek word αρχές (arhes)– meaning both beginning and working principles – artists, dance and theatre-makers share methodologies and strategies for beginning a project. One-day residency: One-day residencies by visual artists in response to the occurrences that particular day involving leaving a trace in the space. Chaos days: Multiple actions, performances, gatherings, installations, social works, live art events through the day in the neighborhood surrounding Embros. Own goal: An invitation to artists to experiment with hybrid forms and unexpected collaborations – an invitation to reverse certainties, challenge personal limits, artistic clichés and conventions.

Adapted from the Mavili Collective ‘Reactivation Program Categories’[20]

The program was formed in secret by Mavili’s collaborators, prior to the announcement of the occupation, but it was updated and reprinted daily during the twelve-days of re-activation, as more people expressed interest in being a part of the occupation. These strands proposed hybrid open modes of praxis that makers could inhabit, and at the same time provided some coherence for the audience. Through this open curatorial framework, Embros destabilized categorizations of doing and hosting ‘performance’ and instead created an unexpected space of cultural production in Athens.

A wide range of works, performances, installations, one-on-one encounters, workshops, lectures, discussions and concerts occupied the stage of Embros. Audiences actively took part in the production of space, creating, through their participation, new forms of exchange. As collaborators in immersive, participatory pieces of work, or spectators in conventional forms of theatre, they actively opened up space for dialogue after the show. All the activities in Embros were free of charge and the bar served drinks for a voluntary contribution. Audience members responded by offering food, drinks and other resources to be shared with others. Embros’s community of spectators and makers co-existed thus producing forms of ‘inappropriate sociality’[21]; to be “in critical, deconstructive relationality as cultural workers, which was incommensurable with the existent regime of labor regulation”[22] Conventional spatial and social ‘agreements’ were reversed through art practices, giving rise to unexpected forms of experimental work and diverse modes of social encounters.

The activities that took place inside the theatre repeatedly transformed its various spaces through diverse and unexpected uses. After the first week of reactivation, as the occupation received more exposure through the media and word-of-mouth, the Mavili Collective initiated a call for public works in the surrounding neighbourhood. As the Embros theater opened itself to the city, site-specific performances, re-enactments of political speeches, communal cooking and dinners, performative journeys in the city and durational actions occupied the blocks around the occupation.

For Mouffe, critical artistic practices can construct new practices and subjectivities that aim to subvert dominant hegemony[23] and, as such, Embros produced its own space and critical practices in the city in relation to existent cultural industries and the socio-political landscape. Lefebvre argues that ‘(social) space is a (social) product’[24] and as such is produced or constituted by a series of agents. Embros, as a product, was constituted by the cultural program; the materiality of the building; the works presented and discussed; unexpected and ‘inappropriate’ encounters; and the surrounding urban movements. Rather than serving a function in a pre-existing space, for these twelve days in Athens’ time of crisis, cultural workers sought to intervene in the dominant production of space and create the conditions for an alternate modality of spatial production, which challenged existent societal imaginaries of cultural praxis.[25]

Embros was a cultural space that had been abandoned by the State for over five years. However, rather than instituting a reimbrication in the dominant urban cultural fabric, the Mavilli Collective appropriated the space as a zone of political and cultural togetherness that affected the surrounding neighborhood and also the city’s art scene—that is, its position shifted with regards to the modes and relations of production of the time.[26] This reactivated, disused cultural building produced, temporarily, a collective undefined and unpredictable subject that took over the occupied theatre. The collective participatory model of the reactivation program sought to produce a wider structure of participation amongst the cultural workers and to renegotiate the relation between the artistic work and its audiences. This model gave rise to an open-ended participatory happening that was in constant process. The ethos of participation extended from cultural workers to audiences to produce an evolving public sphere where the cultural and the political co-existed, giving rise to critical forms of practice.

Mavili had stated in the announcement of the program that on the last day of the reactivation the public would collectively decide on the future of this occupation through an open, public assembly. Its probable continuity therefore destabilized the expected trajectories of an artistic project and opened decision-making to the public that had supported this event.

Figure 3. Embros Reactivation, 2011

As Mavili Collective noted in a text on this last day:

Today, on the last day of the ‘reactivation’ of Embros Theatre in Athens, we collectively write this text […] Thinking of the political today, we find ourselves trapped by previous conceptions, models and practices. However, this occupation has resisted the idea of serving up something that feels familiar and responds to pre-given expectations. We think of the political today through practical structures that respond to the conditions of the Greek landscape and we seek to reevaluate models before they become immobile structures […] Today we wonder about the consequences of our decisions and actions and how they might contribute to the future cultural landscape […] What are the modes and practices that might allow us to rethink relations and roles in society? […] Without the necessary solutions we think of the political today through ‘places’ of exchange, of re-evaluation […] that will perhaps produce future alternatives.

Mavili Collective, ‘Να ξαναφτιάξουμε το πολιτικό’/’Rethinking the political’ [27]

Although the Embros Theater reactivation initially had an ephemeral horizon, that of twelve days, wide public participation from the artistic community and audiences forced its continuation. After a few ‘full house’ public assemblies in the theatre, the Mavili Collective announced that they would continue activities at the Embros Theater. In the following year, 2012, the Embros occupation explored the potentialities of continuity, further experimented with models of cultural praxis and its relation to the city, including modes of organization and collective management. An assembly of local residents took place weekly in Embros and participants of the area organized a series of community events, public discussions, and planned other social activities such as a community vegetable garden. The Mavili Collective instituted residences, festivals and curated programs as well as gave space to other collectives and groups of the city to organize events and use the Embros Theater as a base for action and a meeting place.[28] At the same time visitors from Europe, other occupations, and collectives visited the Theater and took part in its programs and activities.

Constantly experimenting with alternative modes of production and exploring possible ways of continuation in the precarious landscape of crisis, during these months, the Embros experiment also faced the challenge of sustainability outside of current regimes of monetary exchange. Unfunded, Embros continued through alternative networks of solidarity and exchange between participants. In an ongoing process of production by neighborhood residents, collectives and groups it also produced new relations, friendships, collaborations and forms of inappropriate sociality.

Figure 4. Photo Credit: Georgios Makkas, Embros Reactivation, 2011

Performing the Assembly

Through 2012, the Embros occupancy produced a diverse public program of activities, free of charge, that drew large audiences while resisting the dominant imaginary of a squatted space within the Athenian landscape. The State seemed to silently accept or at least not publicly oppose this occupation as there were no attacks by the police or the State. In these years of crisis while the State was unable to fund cultural activities and support social networks, Embros seemed to have a positive impact on the artistic and local community. However a year later, the crisis in Greece deepened as further austerity measures were implemented. The new government in June 2012 initiated violent and repressive mechanisms and narratives that paradoxically promoted both the privatization of public goods and a return to nationalistic values. A growing neo-nazi faction violently patrolled the streets of Athens and as urban impoverishment deepened the government attempted to close all self-organized spaces as ‘centers of illegality’. Almost a year after the initial reactivation, in September 2012, the State acting through ETAD/PPCo SA,[29] a new public-private company responsible for privatizing public properly and selling national assets, demanded that the Mavili Collective evacuate Embros in order to proceed with plans for the privatization of the Embros building. Despite letters of support from unions of artists, architects, technicians, art spaces, universities, independent artists from Greece and abroad, a petition with over 2000 signatures, and attempts to initiate a dialogue with the Mavili Collective and local residents, ETAD/PPCo S.A. replied: ‘We are particularly sensitive to the requests from groups, collectives and citizens of the city. However, our company has to privatize buildings according to the common interest of the citizens’[30] and set a date for the evacuation of the space by the police. Even with internal conflicts regarding the identity and future organizational structure of the space, Mavili Collective refused to hand over the keys of the space and made a call to other artistic and social collectives, political groups, and citizens to support Embros and oppose the police. Public support for Embros succeeded in keeping the space open and also led to a change in its mode of operation and decision-making. Embros began to be operated and managed by a weekly open assembly. This form again broke from usual agreements of participation in this occupancy and from the structures of curatorial and performative participation in artistic and cultural fields and yet was a familiar mode of decision-making and organizing in the political field, and the dominant mode of organization in most occupied spaces in Athens managed mainly by anarchist groups. Participation in the assembly was open to all citizens, ‘except neo-Nazi’s’ as stated by the assembly − and anyone could use the space, present works or organize events without a selection process. The participants in the assembly were also encouraged to take part in the management of the space.

Embros gradually transformed from an experimental performance space to an emergent ‘unpredictable subject,’ giving rise to new public forms of self-management, participation and co-existence. The open, unstructured participatory format of the assembly appeared fruitful at first, as the decision-making and organization of the space became a public matter of debate and contestation amongst participants. However, even though participants in the assemblies rejected time constraints and organizational rules as hegemonic, the free, open and unstructured form of the Embros assembly eventually created a field of potential manipulation. The assembly was occasionally controlled by ‘experts,’ and the labor of political participation became difficult for many.

Many artists and cultural workers including the collective that initiated the occupation, withdrew from Embros after instances of violent assemblies.[31] Repeatedly confronted with the impossibility of finding common ground, they left space for those more experienced and organized in alternative political groups to gain precedence. Following their time at Embros, the Mavili Collective initiated a series of counter-hegemonic interventions in the landscape of crisis, which included a performative intervention in the opening speech of the Minister of Culture in the EU conference ‘Financing Creativity’ as well as actions in the urban domain that questioned the politics of the cultural landscape. [32]

The Embros occupation continued despite internal conflicts, divergences and disagreements, as a difficult exercise of “social pedagogy”[33] confronting participants with the challenges of the ‘commons’ and participation in the open field of the political. Embros continues to operate by a weekly open assembly however, the police has shut down the assembly on three occasions and two people have been arrested while rehearsing in the space. Although Embros continues to host diverse activities, discussions, performances, festival and events almost on a daily basis, the people that take part in the weekly assembly often do not exceed twenty-five participants.

Figure 5. Embros, Where Are We Now Festival organised by Kolektiva Omonia in 2013. In their action "Brigitte's Vardo or almost 15 minutes," artists from the KangarooCourt group created installation-sets inspired by theatrical roles "around and on the bodies of volunteers-viewers-protagonists with materials and objects, so that the final result would be a new visual installation-theatrical scene"


Radical experiments in socio-spatial production as the Embros occupation bear the potential to become useful starting points for collective praxis, unexpected urban exchanges and the production of new modes of organization and participation. In neoliberal landscapes such unexpected spaces and practices that challenge the usual agreements can produce new precarious public spheres yet cannot promise sustainable or smooth convivial encounters and happy endings.

Yet collective bottom-up interventions like Embros question the limits of participation by creating emergent, open, critical, diverse public spheres that confront us with the actual challenges of democracy.

The question remains, how might participatory practices resist cooptation by vested interests—whether these interests emanate from neoliberal institutions that instrumentalize participation to reinforce their policies, or from struggles for power in alternative counter-institutions and bottom-up cultural experiments like Embros? Kioukiolis argues that horizontality cannot exist as a permanent condition but ‘as a horizon of a constant struggle against the residues of unfair, hegemonic and centralized power’.[34] Similarly, participatory practices that challenge the usual agreements, roles and spatial allocation of power can only exist in a precarious process of constant redefinition. They must be seen as an ongoing laboratory of negotiating the conditions of co-existence and collectively setting contexts of being together while rethinking the exclusions of democratic structures and our current inability to create new forms of political life.

The collective participatory practices like Embros that emerged during the years of crisis faced repeated failures. However they also marked a paradigm shift in the modes of practicing politics and culture, and of taking part in the political and social. The failings of these practices might be a fruitful place to begin thinking of new ‘instituent’[35] practices through emergent fugitive participation formats. These formats would challenge both political pre-conceptions and neoliberal recuperation, to produce radical democratic forms of life and culture that exist in constant struggle between the personal and the public, the institutional and the bottom-up, continuity and stasis.

[1] Kioupkiolis. ‘Για μια άλλη δημοκρατία των κοινών‘ (For a democracy of commons). 2013

[2] Mouffe. Hegemony, Radical Democracy and the Political, 207-215.

[3] Schechner. Environmental Theatre, 40.

[4] Claire Bishop argues that ‘at each historical moment participatory art takes a different form, because it seeks to negate different artistic and socio- political objects. In our own times, its resurgence accompanies the consequences of the collapse of reallyexisting communism, the apparent absence of a viable left alternative, theemergence of the contemporary ‘post- political’ consensus, and the near total marketisation of art and education.But the paradox of this situation is that participation in the West now has more to do with the populist agendas of neoliberal governments. Even though participatory artists invariably stand against neoliberal capitalism, the values they impute to their work are understood formally (in terms of opposing individualism and the commodity object), without recognising that so many other aspects of this art practice dovetail even more perfectly with neoliberalism’s recent forms (networks, mobility, project work, affective labour) (2012:276) See further Bishop (2012)

[5] Cooke and Kothari. Participation: the New Tyranny, 13.

[6] See further: http://postit4athens.gr/

[7] Foster. ‘Chat Rooms’, 190-200.

[8] See further: Jackson, Social Works and Kester, Conversation Pieces

[9] Bourriaud. Relational Aesthetics, 46

[10] In ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’ Bishop explored “the antagonism and conflict” inside “relational” democratic spaces drawing on the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, (1985).

[11] Exyzt. Casa Do Vapor. Cova do Vapor, Portugal. 2013. Self-built Structure.

[12] Nova Melancholia. Ectoplasms. Athens. 2012. Performance.

[13] Jeremy Dellar, Battle of Orgreave, 2001. Artwork.

[14] Oda Projesi. Oda Projesi. 2000. Room Project

[15] Ranciere. On Shores of Politics, 60.

[16] Ranciere, On Shores of Politics, 61.

[17] Schechner. Environmental Theatre, 40.

[18] Mavili Collective, ‘Reactivate Manifesto’, 2011. See further: https://mavilicollective.wordpress.com/re-activate/

[19] During the years 2000-2010 a series of emerging experimental companies across the fields of theatre, dance and performance appeared in the peripheries of the dominant Greek cultural landscape. These works questioned conventional theatre and dance formats and made works that could be characterized as post-dramatic, experimental, devised, site-specific and so on. These practices were marginalized for years from the dominant institutions that at the time supported mainly conventional art forms. Most of these companies presented work in difficult working conditions and therefore often the work was undocumented. Without access to established distribution mechanisms often these works although drew large audiences were made, presented and forgotten.

[20] Mavili Collective ‘Reactivation Programme Categories’, 2011. See further: https://mavilicollective.wordpress.com/re-activate/programme-categories/

[21] Haraway, ‘The Promises of Monsters: A regenerative politics for inappropriate/d Others.’ 299.

[22] Haraway, ‘The Promises of Monsters: A regenerative politics for inappropriate/d Others.’ 299.

[23] Mouffe. Hegemony, Radical Democracy and the Political, 213.

[24] Lefebvre. The Production of Space, 26

[25] Lefebvre. The Production of Space.

[26] Benjamin. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, 225.

[27] Mavili Collective. ‘Να ξαναφτιάξουμε το πολιτικό’, 120-121.

[28] Further information for activities during these months are available here: https://mavilicollective.wordpress.com/embros/

[29] As stated in the company website: ‘The Public Properties Co. (PPCo S.A.) is a corporation with the mission of developing and managing the private state-owned properties. The Company is 100% owned by the Greek State and is supervised by the Ministry of Finance’ See further http://www.etasa.gr/versions/eng/page.aspx

[30] ETAD, Letter to Mavili Collective. October 28, 2012.

[31] The assemblies were often verbally violent and aggressive as different social behaviors manifested in the space. In the subsequent years violent physical collision took place between participants of the assembly.

[32] Mavili Collective more information: www.mavilicollective.wordpress.com

[33] Lefebvre in the Survival of Capitalism argues that only self-management makes participation possible otherwise it ‘becomes ideology and makes manipulation possible’. According to Lefebvre, self-management is defined as knowledge of and control [by a group] over the conditions governing its existence. Lefebvre argues further that self-management also requires a social pedagogy.

[34] Kioupkiolis. ‘Ριζοσπαστική δημοκρατία και συλλογικά κινήματα σήμερα.’ 2014.

[34] Following Gerald Raunig I use the term “instituent practices” here to point towards emergent practices that resist structuralization and yet engage with (institutional) formations and structures.


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Schechner, Richard. Environmental Theatre. New York and London: Applause, 1973.

Author Bio

Gigi Argyropoulou is a researcher, artist, curator and scholar working in the fields of performance and cultural practice based in Athens and London. Gigi has initiated and organised festivals, performances, conferences, actions and cultural collaboration projects both inside and outside institutions. She is a founding member of Mavili Collective, Institute for Live Arts Research, Kolektiva Omonia and F2 Performance Unit/Mkultra. Gigi received the Routledge Prize for PSi 18 and papers have been published in journals, magazines and edited collections. Currently a Research Fellow in Birkbeck University and PhD candidate in Roehampton University.

More information at gigiargyropoulou.org

An Introduction to P[art]icipatory Urbanisms
Karin Shankar and Kirsten Larson
Research Notes from a Black Urbanist
Ronald Morrison
Ghetto Biennale and “Jalousie en Couleur”: The Politics of Post-Earthquake Aesthetics in Port-Au- Prince
Carolyn Duffey
Fugitive Moments and Public Memory: An Improvised Memorial for Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X in Canberra
Rebecca Caines
Reimagining Fluidity: Colliding Bodies and Architecture at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Ying Zhu
The “Good Death” of Buildings: Filling Gaps in Post-Earthquake Christchurch
Heidi Elisabet Käkelä
Spacehacking as Praxis: 3 Projects, 3 Perspectives: raumlaborberlin, Recetas Urbanas, Collectif Etc
Nathan John
Making of the Indignant Citizen: Politics, Aesthetics, and Housing Rights in Madrid and Rome
Andreea S. Micu
Critical Performance Spaces: Participation and Anti-Austerity Protests in Athens
Gigi Argyropoulou
Participatory Aesthetics and Makeshift Urbanism: Cases of Guimarães, Cova do Vapor and Terras da Costa
Joana Braga
‘Space to Wrestle With:’ Social Practice in Gurgaon
Alex White-Mazzarella, Namrata Mehta and Soaib Grewal
Windows on an Urban Village: Participation and Antagonism in Shaina Anand’s ‘KhirkeeYaan’
Rattanamol Singh Johal
invisible Zürichs: Multiplicity of Knowledges in Socially-engaged Artistic Practice
Cecilie Sachs Olsen
Seeing in the Dark: Unearthing Batumi’s Hidden Backyard Treasures
Lydia Matthews
Basketball Now!
Layla Nova Forrest-White
Assemblages of Difference: Place-making and Utopian Agonism on the Open-Air House Music Dance Floor
Kavita Kulkarni
‘O collective Happening’ in Shanghai: “Loose Space,” Participation, and what Sustains between Instantaneity and Permanence
Chiayi Seetoo
Squatting in Non-Spaces: Queering Art and Identity in Global China’s Guangzhou
Jenny Lin
Negotiating Informality: Social and Economic Strategies of Latino Food Vendors in San Francisco’s Mission District
Ginette Wessel and Sofia Airaghi
Beyond Bottom-Up in San Francisco: Public-Private Initiatives and the Potential for Proactive Citizenship
Antje K. Steinmuller