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Antithesis lights up

Arts festival explores migrant culture

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24 April 2012

The Antithesis Festival of Music, Poetry and Film began three years ago as the Short Greek Film Festival. Initiated by Ange Arabatzis and Jim Koutsoukos, it was created as a alternative forum for directors and producers who were having difficulty getting their work shown.
As actors and filmmakers, Arabatzis and Koutsoukos were frustrated at how little representation there was of migrant culture in the mainstream media.

As film makers, they took the active step of creating their own program to ensure that their work, and that of their colleagues, was reaching an audience.
With the immediate success of the Short Greek Film Festival, they realised that there may be a niche that could be further explored, and the concept was quickly expanded to include poetry and music. Nick Tsiavos came on board as the curator of music, and Koraly Dimitriadis runs the literature program.

"Ange and Jim had been talking about how TV shows weren't really representing what was going on in migrant families," explains Dimitriadis.

"So they started the Short Greek Film Festival, and it was really successful, got really good reviews, so they thought, 'let's expand this' and they looked me up and we brought in poetry and music."
Dimitriadis feels that the most important part of Antithesis is to raise awareness that this cultural divide exists. She was amazed when someone defended the status quo by pointing out a Greek character in one of the popular night-time soaps.

"That's exactly what I'm talking about. The character is a token Greek, no different to all the Anglo characters. There's barely a glimpse into what it might actually be like for a Greek in that society."
Dimitriadis is clearly frustrated at being caught in the middle; marginalised by the middle class white poetry scene, she says migrant artists generally don't receive the support either from where it is needed most; their own people. But she believes other voices need to be heard and, undaunted, she is pressing on.

This year's poetry offering is titled Exonerating the Body, and will feature Dimitraidis herself along with Angela Costi and Helena Spyrou. The title reflects a theme that is common to the work of all three women, and the subtitle, 'three women, three generations, one intersection' goes some way to preparing the audience.
"I always said that I wanted the next Antithesis to be about the body and sexual repression. We were work-shopping the title, just going through all our work and finding out what the similarities were, what message we wanted to convey. We spoke about what it was like growing up and what kind of issues we had with our bodies and the main thing was guilt."

Once the three poets had established their common ground and agreed on a title for the performance, they all began writing new work. It seems to have been a liberating process, having a concept to focus on, then composing pieces that sit comfortably within it.

"Yes, we've all written new stuff for this show. There were things that we wanted to do. Especially Helena, she felt there were things that she wanted to write about that she'd never written about before and she said 'I want to use this opportunity to do it.' And even for me, I've already done a lot of work in this area, but I've written new things for it."
The other interesting aspect about the show is that the poetry is performed to a musical accompaniment.

Nick Tsiavos, curator of the festival's music component, provides texture on contrabass. While the performance isn't strictly rehearsed as such, both poet and musician have some understanding of where the other is coming from. On stage, it requires both to be sensitive to the movements of the other.
"It's very much a situation where the writing isn't dominating and the music isn't dominating. I know pretty much what I'm going to do, but still, a large part of it is improvised. It's like we're in a space together and we're working off each other."

Exonerating the Body is at La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street Carlton
Monday 30 April, 7:30pm. Bookings on 9347 6142.
3rd Short Greek Film Festival is at Loop Bar, Meyers Place, Melbourne
Thursday 26 April, 7pm. Free.
For more information on events, visit antithesisfestival.org

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