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Financial writer (Snap Judgement), documentary film producer (The Burger and the King) and Athens Biennial artist David Adler just returned from Greece, and files a report on the Frieze blog. He opens, “‘Athens is the new Berlin.’ This hopeful phrase, constantly repeated by visitors to the 3rd Athens Biennale, and by the artists who have moved to Athens to take advantage of the cheap rents and cultural climate, may or may not be true. There are many contenders for the title – Buenos Aires, even Warsaw – but what is indisputable is that Athens is the leader in EU econ-disaster tourism.”

Later in the piece, which surveys the wreckage — financial but also personal — caused by Greece’s sovereign debt crisis and EU skirmishing, he finds that film and dance are the art forms benefiting most from the country’s malaise:

Greece, though cut off economically, politically and even geographically, is not isolated culturally. In this respect it is still part of Western Europe and there are many continuing conversations. A tantalizing fragment of a conversation overheard in a taverna: ‘The tragedy of Vyner Street is…’ In the same taverna I spoke to a Greek museologist who said, ‘I just wish I could live in a more typical country, without out social problems.’ I asked her to elaborate on these problems – did she mean the junkies? ‘No, I mean our personal relationships. There is a hardening, of everyone out for themselves, and an inability to admit they are in trouble.’ She told me the final stages of this cycle is a drawing in and a personal isolation caused by having no money. And though a lack of money is sometimes associated with artistic and musical dynamism, as with the ’80s downtown scene in New York, this is not obviously true for Athens club culture. A musician told me that, ‘Before the crisis, I would was more careful about what gigs I would take, now I will do any job for the money. This is true for everyone I know.’

Greek cinema is the art form that is currently attracting the most international attention. Dogtooth, the 2009 film about a strange and isolated family living on a country estate, was nominated for an Oscar last year. This year’s Academy Awards entry from Greece is Attenberg (2010), about a girl who interprets life through watching David Attenborough (which she pronounces “Attenberg”) wildlife documentaries; the soundtrack includes New York no-wave band Suicide. Both films are oblique commentaries on the crisis, turning a knowing and sceptical eye on the Greek family unit, but also out on the wider world.

Read Adler’s complete piece at the link.

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