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Inside the Artist’s Studio | ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation

ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation, Advisor/Co-founder, Maria Papacharalambous and Director/Founder, Achilleas Kentonis

The ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation was founded by the artists Achilleas Kentonis and Maria Papacharalambous. It is a contemporary arts and science center dedicated to research and creativity. It functions as a multidimensional space, organizing and undertaking the production of multifaceted events from the world of theatre, music, dance, cinema, visual arts, letters and sciences. At the same time, its multipurpose spaces are available to individuals, organizations and other agencies for the hosting of events, presentations, seminars, symposia, conferences and scientific or other workshops.

On his own right, Kentonis has studied Engineering, Physics and Fine Arts in the University of South Alabama, USA as well as at the Universidad de Castilla la Mancha, Spain. As a researcher/scientist, he participated in research programs at NASA; the Cyprus University; and the Aegean University. Since 1999, as a scientist, he ran a small research lab for electromagnetic and geomagnetic fields. In 2007 he created the “TechCulture” a knowledge bank site with a weekly newsletter addressed to curious people hunting for unexpected knowledge from around the world. Since 2009, he creates and manipulates electro-acoustic instruments and produces sonic, noise and alternative music performances.

Most recently, in 2010, he created the Urban Hero—a faceless hero who brings change, justice and love to our planet. Via a website, he offers hints, ideas and advices—finally helping us realize we make up the hero.

On the other hand, Papacharalambous has graduated with distinction from the School of Fine Arts in Athens, Greece. She continued her post graduate studies at the Faculdad de Bellas Artes, Universidad Complutence in Madrid and at the Universidad de Castilla la Mancha, Guenca, Spain. She has also completed her studies in Athens National Conservatory.

The last couple of years she focused and studied alternative psychology and healing techniques like life-coaching, theta healing, Reiki in parallel with her diachronic passion which is Philosophy. The result of this ongoing knowledge, which blends Eastern and Western way of thinking, had a direct impact on her work: “Here & tHere” (2010) and “Here & Now Happiness” (2011). Finally, in 2011, she created the socio-artistic movement Reflections/Αναστοχασμοί with activist actions.

It is an absolute pleasure to present to you Achilleas Kentonis and Maria Papacharalambous.

Georgia Kotretsos: Let’s talk about ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation. You came from different walks of life to join forces under the Foundation’s roof.  You combined research, science, the arts, and creativity to form a world that fit you along with anybody else who wanted to follow. What kind of collaborations does the ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation foster and where is this world leading you to?

Achilleas Kentonis & Maria Papacharalambous: The difference between Art and science can be bridged and minimized only when you experience the culture of a researcher. Both of us were researchers of the unknown via aesthetic, different mediums, different conceptual approaches, and in general we were challenging life itself. So, ARTos for us was a natural evolution of our own idiosyncrasies. It was also filling the social gap of cultural infrastructure blending disciplines such as the arts and sciences.

The ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation was actually founded as one of our artworks—as a social sculpture—in 2000. It is a contemporary arts and science center dedicated to research and creativity: two magical worlds of adventure and discovery, encompassing sojourns into the fields of learning, chaos, and imagination. Its premises, both transcendental and material, inspire the contemporary artist/creator and the scientist/creator alike, offering to both a stimulating platform.

Through the Foundation, artists, thinkers, writers, scholars and researchers are able to:

In 2005, we created the Kids University as a prototype and preposition to the society. It also had the initiative of creating the “cultural observatory of the Middle East,” which maps contemporary arts in the region and bridges the Eastern and Western worlds via exchanges, dialogue, and sometimes by provocations.

One step leads to another so, in 2006, we created ResArt, a space of alternative and intercultural accommodation, and in 2008, micrARTos in Madrid. In 2008 we started the X-dream Festival: a series experimental cross discipline performances/actions. Today we are extremely satisfied because ARTos has a strong [and active] European and international cultural and scientific network and enjoys mixed new audiences, which support our activities.

Where will all this lead us to?

Well, we are artists with a very high spirit of freedom. That means that anything is possible!

ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation floor-plan.

Faced with a world that seems to have dissipated its creative energies, it becomes clear that was is needed is a new, genuine humanism, one that struggles to give meaning to human life. It is necessary for humanity to tread new paths of the spirit, of ethos and praxis, paths profoundly different from all those that have existed until now. This is challenging and fascinating for our spirit, and it presupposes the capability of an ontological ‘evolution’ of consciousness“.
—Dimitris Mpourantas (Economist/Writer)

GK: What has happened over the last three years? What have you heard and seen that made you re-think the present and future—ahead of all of us especially on this side of the world?

AK & MP: We create socio-artistic interventions in times of crisis…. Whose aim is to energize that part of ourselves that has to do with experiences of critical, creative and complex thought. We are concerned and compassionate for our fellow human beings, the environment and nature. Our purpose is to invite people to improve the world on our own, discerning within others, as Noam Chomsky asserts, people are the true driving force. It is an interactive work, which encourages us to remember certain truths and to restore forgotten values by casting doubt on current ones.

With reference to the unpredictable and difficult times we experience daily, we suggest and present philosophical and socio-artistic approaches/positions. A position/opposition that re-evaluates and re-configures everything—aiming to safeguard the basic and the obvious. One work at a time forms part of a whole in perpetual evolution: something that sets off a ceaseless call for doubt, reflection, awakening. A call for a different kind of exploration, for another relationship between ME and WE: which essentially is nothing more than the reversion of an M in place of a W. A mapping of ideas and a resistance, which challenges us to see across the very depths of time…the future itself.

Our need to illuminate values brings us face to face with a series of philosophical viewpoints, ideas, works. We would therefore like to place next to these our own work in the form of exhibitions, interventions, movements, activist actions and suggestions. Our common ground is an anthropocentric approach, as well as sharing.

Mapping out the course of all these years, we realize that from 2008 until now both our common and personal projects happen to gradually approximate philosophy, which sees art and science as spaces conducive to creating the conditions that take humanity one step further.

“Yesterday I was cleaver so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.”

GK: I’m intrigued by the “Urban Hero: A movement without a hero” project. This online platform promises a “silent revolution.” Is it an activism guide or a way of life?  Will this model be effective in leading to more than political change?

AK: Actually [it] is a movement without a leader. But as we all know people need a leader because the majority of the population, they are, so to speak, followers. This gives the opportunity to politicians (power managers) to “enforce” the values of “democracy”. The urban hero is faceless so it will never be identified as person but instead he will be identified as a form as an idea.

The intention is to guide/advice/show how to be self-sufficient in order to result to: save time for you, save energy for all, and give to anybody so they give back too.

This should be a “silent revolution” based on creative resistance and intelligent activism demanding a change over the global power management.

Someone can get in touch with all kinds of activism, scientific theories, survival techniques, alternative investments, alternative banks etc.

It is time to shift from in-habit-ANTs into city-ZENs. Re-think our ethical, economical, political value system. Investment should have both qualitative and quantitative achievements.

At the end of the day, what this platform offers is the possibility to realize that you are the hero. You are the change you want to see.

GK: “Here and Now Happiness!” As I read the title of your project, I smile.  As I look into it, I wonder, “Are people really open to happiness?” Tell me about the birth of this project and, based on your experience, what are the first symptoms of happiness—one may so easily fail to notice.

MP: Definitely everybody is after happiness. But is that enough?

When I felt the need to get out of the artistic selfishness and go beyond the surface, [I needed to find] the real purpose of my artistic and personal existence/self realization.  In order to be real and honest I used my own personal artistic “alphabet”/language. It was really a good example of the universal law of attraction for me. By the time I was ready and dedicated to that, proposals started coming in, custom made for “my” needs. Coincidence? One was an invitation by the Macedonian Museum of contemporary Arts in Thessaloniki to find an alternative and subversive way to present my work in order to launch the “project space” concept.

My effort to unite or maybe better to integrate all disciplines and actions that I had been performing all these years guided me to see it directly via philosophy. Philosophy tries to investigate the way to lead us to better living and also to question the meaning and purpose of life. Art is only the vehicle.

So, I created an alchemy workshop of ideas, images, and sensations, and I invited philosophers, psychologists, theorists, scientists, historians, art critics, artists, poets, radio producers, and the public in general, with the aim of approximate the meaning of happiness through modern position or even acrobatics. This project was something between a public and personal intervention, a balanced relationship between Me and We, a research of the self as a complex entity. An ideological opening that aspires to more substantial and anthropocentric approaches. An exploration for the discovery of the basic pillars that support, preserve, or even challenge what we all desire: happiness.

In the past, I have transfigured petty materials into poetry, into something alive. I have tried to affect the immaterial through matter. Now, I approach the same theme in a more metaphysical, quantum, perhaps approach where the immaterial affects matter. More precisely our body is the material and penetrating the threshold of the mind, the conscious and the unconscious, one reaches the immaterial and spiritual world that directly affects the behavior and the way of seeing things.

After all these research for the last three years what I was left with as the following quotes:

Dalai Lama sums up by saying: “Happiness is love and compassion.”

Albert Camus asks “But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?”

GK:  Should I close by wishing you Happy Soup Night? What is that night all about, as we’re only a few days away from it?

AK & MP: This a “new” tradition we started 5 years ago after the initiative of a few friends who felt the need to meet and exchange ideas and knowledge in a simple way.

Maria Papacharalambous, Here & Now: Happy Soup Night.

We did take this opportunity and created the Happy Soup Night. HAPPY because it takes place, always, [in] the first days of the New Year. SOUP because everybody can easily make and carry his/her soup to be shared and judged by the guests around the table (usually a table of 50+ each night). It blends creativity, high gastronomy, and often innovation—such as “the brain storming soup” etc. The guests are from different disciplines, and finally the night takes the form of a “cathartic ritual” by a long and slow process of eating—using just a spoon, enjoyed with a glass of wine. If you like to get surprised, then you are all invited for the next happy soup night on Saturday January 5, 2013.

And, that’s a wrap for 2012!

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