Text by Kiriakos Spirou
The queers, the critical, the underground, the emerging, the outsiders, the underfunded, the out-of-towners and many others have found at some point of their time in Athens a temporary home at Sub Rosa Space, the independent, not-for-profit platform founded by Macklin Kowal in 2018. Its bright 70m2 studio space hosted a monthly programme of progressive performances, lectures and exhibitions, mainly presented by artists living outside of Athens or who are underrepresented in the local scene — thus injecting the Greek capital’s independent art community with new and experimental voices and ideas.
Sadly, Sub Rosa Space’s generous programming was abruptly interrupted by the global pandemic, since its small square footage did not allow for any audience to congregate during Greece's strict lockdowns. Following a conscious decision to not take its programming online, the platform went in a dormant state, preparing its next steps and offering discrete support to artists whenever possible.
After a full year without public events, Sub Rosa Space is waking up and opening its doors again with a celebratory event that is taking place on the 15th of August: a date that marks the Dormition of Mary on the Greek Orthodox calendar, one of the three most important religious events in Greece — so much so that it is also a national holiday.
The 15th of August is a pivotal date in the hearts and minds of Greeks, since it carries many connotations: religious celebrations take place all across the country, especially the countryside, with remote chapels and monasteries coming back to life as they welcome pilgrims returning to their places of origin. These celebrations are of course accompanied by grand feasts that mark the end of forty days of fasting, as well as traditional music and dance till dawn.
Although it’s towards the end of the summer, the 15th of August is the climax of Greek summer; as a result, Athens is completely empty around this time, leaving those who would rather not spend a weekend stuck in a traffic jam or at a crowded beach, enjoy its empty streets and quiet, breezy nights.
For its grand reopening, Sub Rosa Space presents a performance by a new, anonymous collective called Local Culture. According to the press release, this collective consists of local artists who will be working in-residence at Sub Rosa Space for the foreseeable future. The collective’s first work is inspired by the Dormition of Mary and combines this religious story with the tale of Sleeping Beauty to examine the patriarchy’s obsession with the virginity of women.
Those who have already visited Sub Rosa Space will remember how its large windows offer a view to the dome of a nearby church, which happens to be dedicated to the Dormition of Mary. Using this religious date as a starting point, the event Two Thousand Twenty One Years of Lockdown may also be seen as a counter-celebration, an opportunity for our artistic community to come together again, discuss urgent questions and share some high-summer camaraderie in the empty city.