The closest I got to the Acropolis. Photo by Ash Moniz

Athens, Take II: Instinctive encounters

Tandem Shaml alumni Sarah Bahgat is not done with Tandem. Following her participation in the programme, Sarah has applied for a network mobility grant to continue her Tandem journey, meeting more alumni, partners, and friends. In this story, she recounts her latest travel within the Tandem Family.

Olu Oguibe, Biafra Time Capsule (2017), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, documenta 14

After one vibrant year full of meetings, travels, and enthusiasm – during the third round of Tandem Shaml – I wasn’t quite ready to move away from the Tandem journey. Through the network mobility grant, I was extremely lucky to come back to Athens for the second time, for a short yet extremely fulfilling week in April 2017.

I have been to Athens for the first time – also through Tandem – in November 2016, and my first impression was how I absolutely felt at home. Hence, I couldn’t resist going back (in less than six months) and reconnecting with my friends and colleagues; most notably, Myrto Katsimicha, a fellow participant in Tandem Europe.

Mounira Al Solh, Sperveri (2017), Museum of Islamic Art, Athens, documenta 14

Myrto is a curator, cultural manager and communications assistant at documenta 14, and thanks to her, I managed to visit various art venues, got introduced to amazing artists/curators, and had a larger and better understanding of documenta 14, with its endless conversations and critiques.

Through my conversations with Myrto about our lives, interests, and projects, we found a lot of similar issues and intimate connections between our cities, work structures and challenges. We felt like we have a lot to share and learn from each other and her first visit to Cairo is now on our calendar for next year!

From the talk at State of Concept Gallery, Athens. Photo by Iliana Fokianaki.
From the talk at State of Concept Gallery, Athens. Photo by Iliana Fokianaki.

Another big part of my visit was to give a talk at State of Concept gallery, to the researchers/participants of Future Climates, a three-month long exhibition and research programme, aiming to investigate the conditions that define the work of small-scale organisations and independent workers of contemporary art in Athens.
My talk was on the different methodologies for balancing and negotiating “political precautions” with ambitions and plans, from the institutional perspective and as a cultural manager.

My first connection to Athens was by mere coincidence. Through a short talk with Nikolas Ventourakis, a photographer based between Athens and London, whom I have met on the very last night of my Tandem placement in Latvia, we promised to talk more in the future about our projects. Once I got in Athens, Nikolas was extremely generous to introduce me to many interesting art spaces which made my visit a busy yet fun networking trip.

Greek Contemporary Art Archive. Photo by Sarah Bahgat.

Being able to learn from some of the best structures in the fields of artistic and archival practices, such as the artist run space 3137, and the Greek Contemporary Art Archive, among others, was definitely inspiring for my work as the archives coordinator, and programme manager at Townhouse Gallery.

It was also extremely refreshing to experience how further partnerships among the Tandem alumni can emerge – beyond the project period. One of the many things I will appreciate in Tandem is that wherever I travel, I’ll always have friends and connections, through its growing network, family, and unplanned coincidences.