Cliches can very easily be seen as classics behaving badly. We do love to use them, though, for their familiarity. They only become a real problem when they stick around for too long or there’s no alternative, then contempt follows very quickly.
The Antithesis Festival, now in its second year, has come about because of the desire to provide an alternative view point of what it is to be Greek in Australia. This is largely in reaction to those well worn icons of past years, like Wog Boy, souvlaki and wrapping yourself in a blue and white flag and screaming at passing cars on Lonsdale Street at 3 am in the morning. These are all aspects of Greek culture, but one effective way to counteract it, is to add to that already existing culture. Two local Greek artists, amongst many others, who hope to make that difference are Koraly Dimitriadis and Ange Arabatzis.
Dimitriadis is a writer of poetry and short stories and a spoken word performer who has been asked to look after the Literature and Spoken Word component of the festival. Dimitriadis has organised two events, Words outside the wog box at Bar Open on Wednesday, March 23 and Sex, love and the whole damn Greek thing at La Mama Theatre on Monday March 28. Dimitriadis, at the age of 31, has already written a novel, which has yet to be published, and is now working another. She is also a mother. Well, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Although Dimitriadis is busy, she did express, “Because of my background I wasn’t really encouraged to pursue my artistic self. I didn’t really start pursuing it until I was a lot older.”
Times have changed, though, since the first wave of Greek immigrants who used to turn a buck by driving taxis or working in hospitality. The second generation then moved into either administrative jobs or as professionals, even if they are still viewed as the ‘safer’ professions to go into. The third generation, or on a much broader playing field – the Y generation of Greeks, are now confident enough to branch out into the riskier life paths. “I wouldn’t say confident enough. It is still very much a struggle, and its still a struggle and particularly being a woman as well. I’m supposed to be behind the kitchen sink. I’ve got a daughter and that makes it even harder,” said Dimitriadis.
Ange Arabatzis is looking after film for the festival with the Greek Short Film Festival on Thursday March 24, at the Loop Bar with a collection of short films by Greek-Australians. “This year we have 10 films in all; some have been funded, others independently made and others from aspiring film makers,” said Arabatzis. “So there is a broad range of uses of new technology and new stories told from completely different points of view, which is very exciting,” he added. As Koraly Dimitriadis pointed out, this festival is to challenge our perceptions of what it is to be Greek, “and to challenge the traditional gate keepers of culture that Greek Australian artists are not what they think we are.” Dimitriadis was referring to the Anglo-Australians as the gate keepers. “But that also goes for the older generation of my own Greek community. I gave a performance recently to a Greek audience and I was talking about things that they really didn’t want to hear. They were just sitting there with their arms crossed… all they want to hear is what is safe and familiar.”
Ironically though, the desire of these two artists and the Antithesis Festival team is a universally shared one in this country. That Australia, if not the world, seems to suffer from the same problem of being trapped by a stagnating, yet highly mercurial conservatism.
Details on events: www.antithesisfestival.wordpress.com