An Alternative to What? Art and Counter Insurgency.

On June 17th a group of “artists” will entertain themselves, their friends and tourists in the neighborhood of Exarcheia. These groups, Troubadors Digital, ATATHENS, SarBarBar and Fabrica are all directly connected and in some cases housed under the same roof on Evripidou. All of them are implementing this program under the guidance and funding of co-Athens implemented by the European pilot program of the Municipality of Athens Curing the Limbo. The program is co-financed by the ERDF under the UIA program. On the same evening as their “walk” they will hold their grand online event opening with speeches by Kostas Bakoyannis and Melina Daskalaki the head Athens Development and Destination, an investment firm attorney and member of the defunct Drassi political party, a small party whose ethos could be extreme pro business.

Gentrification is not just a process of economic displacement. It is also a process of cultural and ideological displacement. And it’s this process that the “artist” and the “creative” become the crucial element to introduce to fund and to use as a spearhead. Within this counter insurgency capital itself searches for elements that provide safety for those individuals seeking an alternative outlet minus the uncomfortable aspects of oppositional culture. It’s in this process that a group of artists comes to the point where a city sanctioned cultural event in Exarcheia seems like the right thing to do. For now let’s ignore the absolutely infuriating situation that has allowed this to happen, the brutal repression of our neighborhood these past years.

You have to wonder, if these groups see themselves as an alternative, they mention it on every piece of content produced, what is this an alternative to?

It is important to understand that the artist often sees themselves as a natural outsider. In turn much of society does as well and makes assumptions based on this caricature. The assumption is usually political in nature, the individual in question must be “radical” as an outsider. This creates two separate issues, first the outsider does not question the scope of the art and it’s connotations, and for the artist this caricature creates an air of sanctimony that often looks like a holier than thou shield to deflect criticism. When we do criticise the artist those who watch will often be confused or make assumptions about those who are critical. This begs the question of what our criticism should look like and how action can oppose this general counter insurgency.

So let’s be real, what do you think the individual willing to work with the city to bring “culture” to an area forcefully occupied by the city thinks of it’s inhabitants? Are they just stooges tricked by the City of Athens, lured by a little money and credit on their CV or is there something more? If not do we think every artist in Athens is incapable of action in Exarcheia that doesn’t look like a farce mocking the neighborhood? That every artist in Athens doesn’t understand the importance of self organization within the neighborhood that is critical of the city and it’s benefactors? We know this isn’t true, so who are these people. What do you think they say about the anarchists and the “problems of the neighborhood” in private. Of course they aren’t the only ones, but this is the reality. And they know exactly what they are doing.

This is why we oppose them through direct action, not discussion. It’s why gentrification must be met with the wild nature of oppositional culture. If that is lost, if we are pacified, it is gone. In Athens the city and it’s investments may be running out of money, but the individuals who seek to use the general repression of the neighborhood still exist. They exist on Valtetsiou or Mavromachali, drinking fancy cocktails safely tucked away behind the riot squads. Imagine the individuals who choose to be in Exarcheia, next to the cops. The cops who have terrorized this neighborhood for decades. The city knows that in order to let them in, to have our neighborhood in relative safety it must be pacified first. The parks must be ripped up. The squats must be gone and the stekis and bars that support us have to be shut out as well. Believe it or not, we still have the upper hand and the potential to push it back where it belongs.

And it’s why I always ask, what is more dangerous to Exarcheia, the MAT cop on the corner or the introduction of liberal ideology spearheaded with money and guidance by the forces that want nothing but the neighborhoods destruction. The answer for me is clear.

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