Everything Old is New Again in Thessaloniki

junkAn interesting video was posted earlier today by the British newspaper The Guardian, a film which is part of the Energy Bits documentary initiative. It is on a very interesting Greek “upcycling” project/business in Thessaloniki, in which found objects (from the garbage or junk yards) are transformed by artists, architects, etc., into rather cool, usable things.

Take a look:

It is hard to choose where to start when considering the rich implications of this upcycling project for Culture on the Edge‘s project.

For starters, it’s pretty obvious that the identity of the objects is linked to their public use, their utility (and not to expressions of their private, inner essence): put some labor into reconfiguring the object, thereby change its use, and then it becomes a blended, different thing (e.g., a suitcase becomes a chair and ends up being both but also neither).scoopa-suitcase-chair1-550x500

But stopping here in our analysis, as so many might, and celebrating the egalitarian liminality or structure-defying hybridity that results from these creative efforts, leaves  much unexamined; for instance, the store’s manager makes evident that the current situation of EU-imposed Greek austerity (which is not difficult to link to a wide crisis in the modern Greek nation-state, questions of its continued existence, local class alienation from those who arranged for the loans as well as those who gave them in the first place, and thus fracture points among its citizens’ sense of themselves as modern Greeks) was very much in their minds when they began what they called “Scoopa.” And surely this upheaval in the present is not unconnected to the way that she then links their innovative re-use project to a nostalgia for the simpler village life of her ancestors, where this new upcycling movement apparently already existed, of practical necessity, long before it had a name and a website.

“It dates back many years,…” Melina Chrysikopoulou says. “Now, we adopt their techniques.”

The past apparently reaches out to us; but, taking a closer look, it is the modern discourse on tradition and heritage (might we just call it primordiality?) that pulls up the new by its own bootstraps.

So amidst the abrupt disjunctures of their inventive, reconfiguring efforts there is a rhetoric of seamless continuity (national, historical, social, etc.). The bricoleur, far from defying and thereby operating outside of systems, turns out to have been tweaking and recombining within a prior structure all along, thereby conserving–not despite of but by means of the innovations.

As I’ve often remarked in classes to make this very point: despite how freewheeling jazz apparently is, not just every riff counts as a jazz riff.

Learn more about Scoopa here.

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