Aikaterini Arfara

Aikaterini (Katia) Arfara

Visiting Fellow, Summer 2019

Onassis Cultural Center
Research Project
The Social Turn: Politics and Aesthetics in the Athenian Urban Landscape

Aikaterini (Katia) Arfara holds a PhD in Art History from the Paris I – Panthéon/Sorbonne University and presently works as the Theatre and Dance Curator of the Onassis Stegi in Athens, Greece. Dr Arfara has a BA in Classical Studies (Athens University) and a BA and a MA in Theatre Studies (Athens University).  Her current research interests include socially engaged art, public works and post-documentary performance. As the Theatre and Dance Artistic Director of the Onassis Stegi in Athens from 2013 to 2018, she initiated and curated numerous interdisciplinary events and international festivals such as the Fast Forward that commissions site-specific projects at the intersection of art, science and civic practice. She has lectured extensively in France and Greece. Dr Arfara is a Fulbright fellow, a DAAD and Clemens Heller scholar and a member of CIMAM and of the Intermediality working group of the IFTR. Her essays at the crossroads of theatre, dance, performance and contemporary art have appeared in french, english, spanish, arabic and greek in various journals and critical anthologies such as Being-With in Contemporary Performance Art (2018) and  L'Objet technologique en scène (2019, in press). Dr Arfara is the author of the book Théâtralités contemporaines (2011), the editor of the special issue ‘Scènes en transition-Balkans et Grèce’ for Théâtre/Public (2016) and the co-editor of Intermedial Performance and Politics in the Public Sphere (2018).

About the Research Project
The Social Turn: Politics and Aesthetics in the Athenian Urban Landscape

At the aftermath of the Occupy movements and protests, site-specific public works interweave the debate on socially engaged art and the growing global interest on new forms of subjectivity beyond the politics of exclusion and dispossession. The project explores socially engaged public works as an agent of coming together culturally, socially and politically. By addressing current societal, political and cultural issues such as collective action and self-empowerment, the study examines the aesthetic rigor and the social impact of site-specific artistic interventions in the contemporary urban centres focusing on the Athenian lansdcape. It aims at exploring this ‘social turn” as a key shift in performing and visual arts by adopting a transversal methodology at the intersection of intermedial theory, urban studies and political theory.  At the heart of the project lies the concept of the commons and more specifically of the urban commons, which, according to the Greek architect and activist Stavros Stavrides, has to do with the very meaning of space, especially public space as a network of relations through which social relations are being expressed and problematized.  Taking Athens as an emblematic city of the Global South whose social identity continues to undergo constant transformation, the project deepens and expands my theoretical reflection on commoning practices and discursive artistic structures initiated during my curatorship of the Onassis Fast Forward Festival from 2014 to 2019. Moreover, by researching and showcasing cross-disciplinary artistic models of civic participation and knowledge dissemination, the project undertakes a comparative study of Greece and USA’s ongoing public debate on commoning practices and new social relations under the resurgence of populism and xenophobia.