Capacity 1

CAPACITY
2016
7m x 2.5m
Art Athina, Athens

This project was commissioned by Out of the Box Intermedia
and kindly supported by PCAI (Polyeco Contemporary Art Initiative)

Since 18th November 2015, the Macedonian border has been strictly controlled, giving intermittent passage through only to Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. Many thousands of immigrants (not defined as ‘war refugees’) are unable to pass this border at Idomeni, particularly young single men of Pakistani, Iranian and Moroccan origin. As conditions deteriorate at this point of standstill, many thousands have returned to Athens, unable to move further into Europe.With this rollback into the Capital, the Olympic Taekwondo stadium was used for a limited period in December 2015, to receive those unable to find shelter in the city in the winter months. In particular it hosted people stuck in metro stations seeking cover from the downpours of those weeks. But with a deadline of 17th December when the stadium had to be ready for a Sports Federation event, it was only ever going to be a short-term measure for a long-term problem. In an interview, camp manager Koutsianas Panos said the building’s maximum capacity was 1,700, but he wanted to keep numbers below 1,000 for safety reasons[1].

Capacity 3

But within days of opening, the stadium was hosting approximately 2,000 people, many of whom, after just one night, were trying to do everything possible to leave the facility. Press were not allowed entry to the facility but an informal poll of 20 people exiting the stadium found only one to be sleeping on a mattress, despite press statements saying that beds would be provided for all. The rest were sleeping on the blankets on the vast concrete floor.

Capacity 4

Capacity 5 72

Over-used facilities made for filthy surroundings, and reports of frustration causing fighting to break out on numerous occasions, specifically between Iranian and Moroccan males, rendered the stadium uninhabitable for migrant families.

“I would rather sleep outside,” one man said. “It smells so bad in there and it’s so cold that people are sleeping in air ducts and shower rooms just because they are a little bit warmer.”[2]

Capacity 6 72

CAPACITY is a durational performance of wall painting that will aim to represent this other recent use of the Taekwondo Stadium where Art Athina is now situated. It deals with the rapid turnover of use of the building, and the ability to recycle space in alarmingly different ways during this period of upheaval in Athens. As the space was only temporarily past of this crisis, the artwork also shares that transient quality and will be painted over after the end of the event, leaving no trace.

Capacity 2

During each day of the fair, Khan-Dossos will work on site, attempting to paint all of the 2000 bodies reported to have been sleeping in the building this winter. Its aim is to draw attention to the sheer number of young men in particular, who are stranded in Athens, but remain less visible in the media coverage of the crisis. Visitors to the booth will be able to see the artist at work, and watch the painting develop on a daily basis.

In a reverse of the norms of an art fair schedule, the ‘early bird’ VIP viewers at the beginning of the fair will see almost nothing of the work, only the underdrawing, whereas those who visit in the last hours of the last day will see the full effect of the completed painting.

With such a large scale work being attempted in so few days, the artist will invite visiting members of the public to pick up the brushes and paint and help colour in the many figures making up the capacity of the building used in such a radically different manner.

Capacity 7

Capacity 9

Capacity 8

 

[1] “You have to treat people like people and then it’s easier to manage everything,” Koutsianas said, but later expressed doubts about the stadium’s long-term feasibility. “I don’t think this facility is suited for this use,” he said. http://www.dw.com/en/refugee-relocation-in-athens-hits-snags/a-18901144

[2] Payman Qasimian, an Iranian who lived in the United States for 15 years, passed one night in the stadium with his family and said he would never do it again, as reported to Deustche Welle http://www.dw.com/en/shut-off-from-the-balkan-route-asylum-seekers-flood-into-athens/a-18913019