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The Art of Lawlessness – Prologue

In 2012 the Institute for Live Arts Research |Π|, which has five permanent members and is based in Athens, Greece, was searching for a subject for its next intervention. As is always the case, all events organized by the Institute until now draw upon the concrete socio-political situation and respond to a specific reception of reality – this means that we are mainly interested in observing and analysing contemporary interactions between art and its socio-political surroundings.

While thinking about the new event, we noticed – mostly and mainly in Greek society and politics – a rapidly spreading and widely disseminating discourse about illegality and lawlessness combined with indeed lawless practices on various levels. Here some brief examples: In 2012, Greek government started a unprecedented campaign against the so-called “homes or laboratories of lawlessness” targeting mostly squats that for many years operated in Athens; at the same time, government politics over the last four years and while Greece undergoes the violent fiscal adjustment, are themselves deeply unjust or even illegal in the sense that they do not conform with the constitution of the country. On the other hand, state indifference brought about in 2011 the first theatre squat in Athens – a sort of an illegal or ‘a-legal’ response to outrageously unjust governmental politics.

In this kind of atmosphere, we started to think about acts that are to be defined as legal, ‘a-legal’, illegal, lawless etc., about unjust practices and about the possibility of justice. We aimed at challenging the notions and concepts that dominate the discourse by attempting to think the place of art and artistic expression in it. We chose THE ART OF LAWLESSNESS as the title of the event, indicating on the one hand our desire to detect lawless strategies and policies and on the other, our wondering whether there can be an illegal or lawless art.

After having the catchy title, we decided to have a two-episode-event: the first one took place in Amsterdam in December 2013 as a research residency in Het Veem Theatre, organized by Konstantina Georgelou, who is a member of the Institute and a dance and performance theorist, Manolis Tsipos, also member of the Institute, performer and author, with the collaboration of Bojan Djordjev, artist, and Eva Fotiadi, art historian and theorist. The residency consisted of a series of discussions, interviews and encounters with artists, theorists, activists etc. around the relationship of their work and practice to law and lawlessness. The second leg of the event took place March 2014 in Athens, Greece. It consisted of two encounters in two private apartments and an open, public event in a semi-abandoned multi-story building in the heart of the city. In Athens, the event was organized by the other three members of the Institute, Gigi Argyropoulou, performance theorist and practitioner, Vassilis Noulas, director and author, and me. The Athens-leg aimed to combine aspects of the practice of secret societies, challenging norms and rules of ‘public debate’, with legally precarious gatherings in a space, which strictly speaking was not supposed to be used for similar activities. Our guests in Athens were political philosophers, psychiatrists, law and crime theorists, lawyers and activists. With them, we tried in essence to explore and question lawful and lawless acts amidst a situation of crisis; to negotiate the borderlines and the margins of law and the possibilities to act there and to locate ‘performances of justice’ in a blurred and troubled environment.