Action in Athens: Students and Faculty Re-Imagine Metropolis

Students and faculty from various graduate programs in Parsons and Milano will travel to Athens, Greece on March 12-19 to participate in the Benaki Museum‘s Against All Odds: Ethics/Aesthetics Project., The program includes an intensive, week-long academic workshop that brings together students and educators from The New School, the National Technical University of Athens and the Athens Fine Art Academy, as well as members of the Greek and British Parkour communities. Working in cross-cultural and transdisciplinary teams, the students will critically explore community-based aesthetic practices that aim to symbolically and materially transform the urban environment. Focusing on the neighborhood of Exarchia in the city center of Athens–the epicenter of many historical and recent political uprisings–they will meet with local community groups, activist organizations, artists, designers, architects and scholars. During their intensive design charrette, the students will co-design an immediate action, in response to a recently established and highly contested community garden in Exarchia.

For several weeks leading up to the program, the students and faculty began exchanging ideas through ŒëŒëŒü Online-Social Design Academy, a virtual academic platform. New School students shared their experiences working on collaborative design projects within specific communities. When they come together in Athens, the students will critique and refine their ideas regarding new forms of civic engagement and social justice issues. The workshop will be lead by Lina Stergiou (Curator, AAO Project), Lydia Matthews (Professor/Dean of Academic Programs, Parsons), Radhika Subramaniam (Director/Curator, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons), and Michael Morris (Faculty, School of Constructed Environments, Parsons). The students’ collective action will be documented and subsequently transformed into an installation designed by Parsons students under the guidance of Professor Morris, to be featured within the AAO exhibition at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Annex, Athens’ premier exhibition venue for contemporary art, design and architecture. The exhibition will open on June 6 and will run until July 31, 2011 (see: www.aaoproject.org).

The workshop is one of many cross-cultural initiatives sponsored by AAO, a project dedicated to fostering programs that encourage the younger generation to feel responsible for creatively transforming their urban and social environments. It is co-sponsored by the newly emerging Curatorial Design Research Lab at Parsons, which investigates and fosters curatorial platforms that simultaneously function as sites for aesthetic, intellectual and pedagogical exchange–all of which aim to generate proposals and hands-on projects that address urgent issues we face in our contemporary daily lives.