Syndrome of the Present Seminar #1

Yeni Cami
Friday, 26/01/18 – Day I
17:00 Arrival at Yeni Cami (New Mosque).
17:30 – 18:00 Introduction
18:00 – 19:00 Opening lecture by Savas Michael–Matsas: “Paths of Emancipation: Sabetai Tsvi and Baruch Spinoza
19:30 Dinner at Restaurant Sempriko.
Saturday, 27/01/18 – Day II
08:30 – 09:15 Introduction
09:30 – 10:30 Pre-tour presentation by Iosif Vaena.
10:30 -12:00 City Tour: “From Byzantine times to the Present” with Iosif Vaena.
Thessaloniki, Saloniki, Salonique, Selanik, Solun: the multiplicity of its name does not only bear witness to the city’s long history but also to its multifaceted, complicated and often contested past. We can understand Salonica better if we observe the city space from a vertical perspective. Each layer with its internal hues represents an once powerful authority, be it an empire, a religion, a class or a state. Each one of them has left an imprint in the architectural and urban landscape. Christian churches built over ancient pagan temples, labyrinthine alleys replaced by broad avenues, Ottoman mosques replaced by modern city blocks, a city center erected on the ashes of the old city, a vast Jewish cemetery buried under the current University campus: all these virtually invisible traits of societies and communities gone await the open eyes of any curious observer who wishes to understand the historical fabric that violently produced modern Salonica.
12:00-13:00 Lunch at Elliniki Meze
15:00 – 19:00 First round of discussions and presentations.
  1. Marc David Baer, Oreet Asheri, Pawel Maciejko, Alexander van der Haven, Melis Birder, Roee Rosen, Erden Kosova, Yael Bartana
  1. Bik van der Pol, Julian Reid, Gil Hochberg, Yael Davids, Amir Engel, Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, Danielle Riou, Yolande Jansen, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Natasa Ilic.
 20:00 – Dinner at Resturant Katsamaka
Sunday, 28/01/18 – Day III
08:00 Arrive at the Yeni Cami.
08:30 -10:30 Lecture by Dimitris Stamatopoulos: “Religion and Orientalism”.
10:30- 13:00  Visit near Sinatex
13:30 – 14:30 Lunch
14:30 – 16:30 Guided visit to the exhibition “The dusk of our old city” by Giannis Epameinondas at Villa Kapandji.
We tend to think of the fire of 1917 as the turning point in the recent history of Thessaloniki. In one respect, this is true: combined with the change of rule in 1912 and the advent of the refugees with the population exchange in 1922-23, the fire triggered the redesign of the city’s urban fabric. The central political decision of the Liberals’ government under Eleftherios Venizelos included three factors in the new plan: the discipline of urban planning which had just emerged in Europe; the contemporary investment capital which exploited the new, valuable and upgraded land; and hellenisation, which in the minds of the inhabitants (not just of Greeks) was synonymous with progress and modernisation in infrastructure, economy, commerce, education, bureaucracy and social structures. At the time Greeks were seen as a force of transparency and efficiency against a declined and corrupt ottoman state machine. Yet it is wrong to believe that contemporary Thessaloniki was born with the advent of the Greek State or with the Hébrard plan. The city had its own track record of moderni­sation in the context of the Ottomantanzimatreforms, with networks, infrastructure, public and private buildings which gradually changed its aspect as well as its essence, starting with the demolition of the waterfront walls in 1870. In its transition from a confined, walled-in medieval city to a cosmopolitan hub open to trade and sea, Thessaloniki followed a brief trajectory of brilliant expectations before ending up, after WWII, as a single-nationality, monochromatic and undifferentiated provincial city.
During this period of transition Thessaloniki never stopped changing, burning down and being rebuilt according to the new European standards. The major fire of 1890 —eventually overshadowed by the even greater disaster of 1917— was dealt with in a similar way to the subsequent event: a new plan by the municipal authorities, a rationalised and regularised layout, prohibition of any construction until the plan was complete, relocation of the former inhabitants to new neighborhoods away from their former downtown residences and upgrading of the formerly decrepit region into a “rich house” zone. A key difference, of course, was the total reallocation of land in 1917 as opposed to a simply neater layout in 1890.
So what was this Thessaloniki that is no more? In fact, what we mourn today is the loss of two cities whose dates and boundaries are frequently blurred: the short-lived city of the Belle Époque which succumbed to the fire in 1917, and the city of Hébrard which vanished under the rush redevelopment after 1950. Should we also be talking of a third one — the medieval Ottoman city before thetanzimat? Some would even lament the loss of Thessaloniki as it was in 1430…
Of course, it is another city: after the droves and convoys of misery and the population exchanges, Thessaloniki changes its aspect and forms new mentalities, new social strata, a new national conscience and a new Greek vision, firmly focused on the West after the loss of the Orient. After the first years of hope mixed with awkward wavering about the future of the city, the fire of 1917 and the Great War victory sealed forever the destiny of Thessaloniki as a new, modern Greek city. The cosmopolitan lady of the Belle Époque would remain just a memory amidst the triumph of the model of post-war Greek development, only surviving in the soppy nostalgia of newcomers “for all those we allowed to be lost”.
17:00 – 19:00 Second round of discussions at Yeni Cami.
  1.  Artur Zmijewski (film), Ayse Cavdar.
19:00 – 19:30 Closing remarks.
20:00 – 21:30 Dinner a Moúrga.
Participants: Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, Marc David Baer, Yael Bartana, Melis Birder, Ayse Cavdar, Yael Davids, Marjolijn Dijkman, Galit Eilat, Koken Ergun, Amir Engel, Alexander van der Haven, Gil Hochberg, Natasa Ilic, Yolande Jansen, Erden Kosova, Romm Lewkowicz, Savas Michael Matsas, Pawel Maciejko, Meriç, Öner Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Bik Van der Pol, Danielle Riou, Julian Reid, Roee Rosen and Artur Zjmyewsky.

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