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Design Walk

The emerging design scene in Athens is celebrated in style at Bombay Sapphire Design Walk

"Design is the lowest branch of art,” challenges nu-Greek god of culture, Vassilis Charalambidis. Controversial, not only because he’s addressing the rising design stars of the Athens's Bombay Sapphire Design Walk, but also because he too is a designer. “We steal from painting, art, everywhere...” His stolen goods are displayed in the form of unique posters made for events at Bios, his coffee bar/cinema/nightclub/design studio/hang-out/experimental theatre joint – a unique four-floor temple to the world’s most autonomous creatives. Bios is near the Gazi area of Athens (and boasts The Hoxton Bar and The Intrepid Fox, replete with metal posters). The more ramshackle neighboring zone of Psyrri leads Dazed Digital to get as deep as Aristotle with the preeminent member of the new skool design studios lurking amongst dilapidated warehouses and 50s patisseries...

Dazed Digital: So The Design Walk is a weekend of open studios in Athens. What’s the lowdown on the hoedown?
Wilhelm Finger Double Decker: Athens reminds me of the unification in Berlin. It’s chaotic and beautiful and the design scene is relatively new. Ten years ago, there was nothing like this but with Yorgos Lanthimos making films like Dogtooth (for aesthete lovers), it feels like the beginning of something. Double Decker set a theme of Poles Apart for the Design Walk. Fourteen participating studios then translated it further into individual concepts: for example, Negative vs Positive, Original vs Copy, Beauty vs Ugly, Symbol vs Literal. The city also hosts a fashion week (Greek designers include Yannis Tseklenis, Bulgari, John Varvatos, Sophia Kokosalaki), and there’s RemapKM which sits alongside the Biennale (Larry Gagosian recently opened a gallery in Athens). It’s cool.

DD: Socrates and Plato are intimidating forefathers, is there a residue of big philosophy to the conceptual process?
Christina Katsari Geometry Studio: Words plus meanings equal truth, you make sense of something, then it ends, and you move on.  Everything is about decoding nature, so we portray this through a cybernetic-influenced interactive exhibit.  We took the theme of Noise versus Silence using 1960’s scientist Lindeman’s mathematical deconstruction of nature (he worked out how leaves on trees can be decoded into algorithms). Using the restriction of slick typography and a modernist palette, Geometry presented Greek and Latin fonts as the fruit of a projection of a tree, which changed through people hitting a rainbow paper keyboard. We are also on the geographical periphery here, not in the centre of the West, or the East, or Africa. This allows a sense of freedom, more than the restrictions of larger cities.

DD: And what’s with the Greek fonts?
Sereal: The Latin font is the language of pop culture. It has developed into curves and lines. The Greek font is far more angular, and it carries a certain context. At Sereal we prefer to work with the Latin script.

DD: Ah, the curse of the Acropolis, the Ottoman empire denying the country an industrial revolution, being the world’s number one exporter of students and the Orthodox church owning a third of the land...
Vassillis Charalambidis, Bios: I am so tired of the excuses. There is a huge modern history to Greek design. The 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s are represented as shop signs all over Athens. Freddie Carabott, Michalis & Agni Katzourakis are designers from the 60s who worked internationally and had a complete Greek look. We have a screening room in Bios, some of my favorite nights are when we play 'Fasolada Westerns’ (bean soup instead of spaghetti), high-quality 70s Greek productions with classic soundtracks by Vangelis and Yiannos Spanos. We are rehearsing an experimental version of an old Greek play in the basement, then 1984 by Orwell. We have people like Forced Entertainment visit; the ‘human drum machine’ Can drummer, Jaki Liebezeit; Warp are friends, the Leaf label, CocoRosie, One Dot Zero collaborations. The LED installation in the main bar programs excerpts of four books every two weeks. Some events get promoted by the British Council and the Goethe Institute who recognize Bios as a cultural institute, but the Greeks don’t...

DD: So Athens is hip, but is it as smoky noir as Berlin?
Indyvisuals: I think Athens is not the new Berlin yet, but in ten years time, maybe. We are very political. We have to act. We operate as a collective and chose Digital vs Analogue, collaborating with our friend, Xaris Tsevis (whose work adorns campaigns for big sneaker makers and fizzy drink folk), it’s mosaic, but with the anarchic style associated to our music clients.