Island_Built Event by Aristide Antonas & Filippos Oraiopoulos


The project revolves around the island of Youra. The island lies in the Aegean sea, six hours from Volos, and is part of Magnesia Prefecture’s Sporades islands. Youra is deserted, as are most of the islands in the region. Some of them (Trikeri, Alonnisos) were places of exile for political prisoners, while others belonged to Mount Athos monasteries (Kyra Panagia, Pappous) or were used as pastures (Piperi). The small number of buildings on Youra (traces of a small monastery, a preserved church, ruins from the first installation of the first guards, today’s installation of the guards) points to the island’s deserted state. Until being ceded to the Greek State, Youra was a hunting ground for Greece’s kings. The island also has mythological associations, since – legend has it – the Cyclops’ cave is placed –according to a legend- there. Shipwrecks are a common occurrence at Youra; many sunken ships and their loads are gradually being located in the deep waters of the greater region. A ship carrying 200 immigrants ran aground on the deserted island on 26 December 2001. Youra is located in the middle of the Alonnisos marine park; it is a protected biotope and may not be visited without special permission from the Sporades Forest Office. The island is guarded by two to three guards who have rotating ten-day shifts.
The ISLAND – built Event project constructs the island’s pending identity. The interest lies in the difficulty of forming a local identity, seen as a dynamic, creative act. Specific events have led to the island being identified as a certain form: thus, it has become an island of shipwrecks, of politics, of ecology, of desertedness or of isolation, depending on one’s perspective. Each individual act performed on the island has formed or reformed it as a different form. The built event that is being organized, involving the presentation of projects and talks on the island, will replace the island’s lack of identity (lack of generality) with something. The island’s pending identity is thus a platform or an open forum. The place is interpreted as a collection of produced narrations describing it and of constructions that it awaits. It is defined by patience. This patience (which welcomes and organizes the pending identity) characterizes the project. The project is presented as an action stemming from this patience.
The procedure involved in bringing the project to fruition entails the following practical steps:
A. Artists, philosophers, anthropologists, scientists and architects as well as the students from the University of Thessaly’s TAM School of Architecture: (final year students and graduates) and other Schools are invited to participate in the project.
B. From the start of the spring semester students will work on the project of the University of Thessaly’s TAM School of Architecture. With the students’ involvement in the project’s production process, it is the educational process that is introduced into its production process, and not the other way round.
C. Discussions and debates will be held at the TAM Department of Architecture between special guests and the students, on issues relating to the island of Youra and which also concern other islands in Magnesia Prefecture (Trikeri, Alonnisos, Kyra Panagia, Pappous, etc.). One month after the project’s commencement – on 5 April – the students and any of the guests who are interested will visit the island of Trikeri, and on 16 and 17 April there will be a first visit to Youra, heading from Alonnisos and via the Sporades islands.
The insistence on the place itself cannot be understood without conceptualization. An itinerary and a meeting on the island form a research field on intentions and inventions of the island. Intentions and inventions are presented through discourses and constructions. In the field of the uncertain island, the place itself and any identity of the place stay suspended. In the same field the built event is the notion that provides a substitute for identity without betraying suspension. The decision, the coincidence and the incident organize each time temporary structures of the built event.
The two days of discussions have been organized as follows: Having agreed to participate in the project from the start and having received the available material (conception of the project – key concepts, photographs, geographical, historical and anthropological material, written accounts, etc.), the participants will visit the place on 14 May (Saturday) during a joint trip. There, they will share their initial thoughts on the subject and exchange views at the place itself (Youra), weather permitting, or on the closest inhabited island (Alonnisos). In the meantime, once the project has commenced, the participants will be able to send their thoughts or projects (material that they have developed with a specific construction in mind for the island or letters expressing their agreement, objections or alternative ideas pertaining to the project’s organisation), thus creating interventions throughout the project’s duration by developing a network that promotes the ongoing exchange of information and critiques. They can bring or send the final draft of their (philosophical, anthropological, scientific, poetic, theatrical and other) speech and their constructions (whether in the form of art, film, photography, music or other) by June, at which time – if necessary – one last visit to the island will be arranged, marking the ‘end’ of the project.
D. During the project’s production, based at the TAM Department of Architecture in Volos, artists, philosophers, anthropologists, architects and scientists will, alone or in groups, present talks or constructions referring or corresponding to a visit to the island of Youra or other similar places in the Magnesia region (Trikeri, Alonnisos – places of exile; Pteleos beach – place of shipwrecked immigrants, etc.). The same participants can also present a new talk or construction specifically on the particular project during these two days.
E. Lastly, different agencies (Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly, Alonnisos Municipality, ecological agencies, Forest Office, Volos immigrant support group, immigration agency, etc.) will be invited together with the previous guests to develop the project into a permanently open forum on this particular island.
The project is already in progress and its duration will be determined by the action taken by people regarding Youra and according to the contracts being drawn up. If we conceptualize the project’s structure (built event) as the plot of a live, realistic theatrical play, then the roles of the participants will be identified with their actual participation. The project will officially come to an end at a specific date and time to be announced. The results of the ISLAND – built Event project (discourses and constructions) will be placed in containers (mobile exhibition spaces) for viewing, while sheets submitted by the participants will be compiled into a large book to which new material will be able to be added (the book will be bound with removable screws). Thus, although presented as a temporally specific ‘theatrical’ event, the project will remain permanently open. The first stage in the process will be presented in a separate edition. The staging of such an architectural project (built event) aims at composing the content and unfolding the process dialectically through ongoing transformations in the internal time of the project’s constructions.