Victoria Square Project: Techniques of the Body
by Constanine Giannaris and Mark Mazower

Film screening
9:30–10:30 pm
Elpidos 13, Victoria Square, Elpidos 13, Athens

The movie focuses on refugee immigration and is the outcome of close collaboration between Greek director Constanine Giannaris and British historian Mark Mazower. A sharp, surprising cinematographic and historical approach directly inspired by the 2015-16 events.

Techniques of the Body explores the memory of war, exile, and massive population movements in the past and asks how we might respond to their impact in the present. The human body moves, the camera records and imposes. Who is the stranger in the city? Fear, need, and welcome interact in Greece’s experience now and over the past centuries. The new daily rhythms of contemporary European infrastructure carry commuters and tourists past the encampments and shelters that have sprung up in the heart of Athens and the Piraeus dockside, abutting motorway service stations and the fields of northern Greece, fragile and resilient at the same time, transformations of a lived environment in ceaseless flux. The eternal Greece of the sea, the sun, and the mountains, a vision of Europe’s past, seems more real than the flickering newsreel images of the real country’s own historical storms—the Great Catastrophe of 1919-22, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing an unreachable Ottoman past; defeated armies on all sides; the scars of world wars that metamorphosed almost imperceptibly into civil war; liberators who turned into new kinds of masters; strangers who made new homes for themselves in the land where new strangers now seek sustenance. The era of imperial disintegration and mass violence coincided with the golden age of the motionpicture and the tyranny of the image. In a new age of nationalist passions, the vocabulary of culture, language, and faith often seems to give these scenes meaning. Or does it? We look for signs of difference in headscarves, signs of common humanity in mobile phones. Our eyes have become the prisoners of forgotten theorists. Can we find a path between the agon and a kind of impersonal pity? In his 1934 essay Techniques of the Body, the French sociologist Marcel Mauss suggests we start with physicality—with limbs, postures, attitudes—and this film seeks to follow his insight. Today, Greece is on the front line of two forms of bureaucratized inhumanity—the inhumanity of twenty-first-century capital and the inhumanity of mass flight from war. Can the past provide inspiration in the form of ideas that are so old they seem new, or is the past a trap, a refuge, a means of evading what now confronts us?

Techniques of the Body was made possible through the Stavros Niarchos Foundation support.

Posted in Public Exhibition

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