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June 9, 2014

Pictures at an exhibition

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Written by: DW
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“Would you vote for me?
Exhibition of photographs
State Museum of Contemporary Art — Warehouse B1, Port of Thessaloniki
June 5-21

The Michael and Kitty Dukakis Center for Public and Humanitarian Service was launched in 1999 to provide a forum for young people to explore the meaning and scope of public service in the contemporary Greek context. To celebrate fifteen years of public service initiatives in Thessaloniki, the Dukakis Center has organized two-month Spring Festival of Civic and Urban Culture, of which the current exhibition at the State Museum of Contemporary Art is the latest event.

For “Would you vote for me” the Dukakis Center commissioned a group of young photographers — George-Ilias Belidis, Lorenzo Di Buongrazio, Valbona Makovci, Zani Manginis, and Simona Ramos —  to work under the artistic direction of Chryssa Nikoleri to shadow candidates for public office, selected at random, in the days just prior to the local and European elections of May 10 and 24. “Would you vote for me” focuses on the candidate as private citizen and public person, and brings to the fore the ways in which candidates interact with their “public” — their staff, their supporters, and more generally voters at large. The role of the photographer is to tell a pictorial story of these personae and of these interactions. We ask the viewer not to elect a candidate, selected at random, but to consider whether the photographer’s subject is someone you would be inclined to select to serve in public office.

In keeping with the mandate of the Dukakis Center, the photographers whose works are on display at the State Museum of Contemporary Art at the Port of Thessaloniki have sought to merge their individual creativity with the concept of citizenship. One of the tasks assigned to the young people who have taken part in this exhibition was to create a visual idiom of public service. To do so they had first to understand what public service is. As I have learned well over the fifteen years I have directed the Dukakis Center, this is not an easy task. In fact, one learns best what public service is by doing, by engaging, by getting involved.

Engage they have, to the point that they are now authorities on the subject. The proof is in the images on the walls of the exhibition hall.

As one looks at the photographs, one detects two things, among many others perhaps. The first is the element of trust. The principal subjects of the photographs, the candidates, all grew to trust their photographer. Meanwhile, the photographer trusted his or her vision. More important, however, our artists have captured public moments where the viewer is encouraged to feel a sense of trust in their fellow citizens. Without this there is no hope for democracy.

Second, the photographers have captured what Aristotle suggested is the essence of human life: its political dimension. Rather than shy away from a topic that often provokes controversy and division, our photographers embrace the political. Politics is all around us, they seem to be saying. This is good, not bad. Without politics, all that is left is despotism and arbitrariness.

This is a public service message of the highest order for our day and age.

The Dukakis Center was launched in Thessaloniki 1999 and is celebrating fifteen years of initiatives like the current exhibition. Our core mandate is still to encourage young people to find creative and meaningful ways to discover for themselves and communicate to others the joys of public service.

Credits: Photographs by Zani Manginis, Lorenzo Di Buongrazio, and Valbona Makovci.






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