Danae Stefanou

"Maybe a glimpse into the void beyond": Experimentalist Paradigms and the Liminal Spaces of post-1960s Greek Modernism

Mainstream narratives of Greek modernism operate around a sparse but pervasive canon. The criteria and corresponding analytical tools for this canon are often reduced to the singular question of tonality, and the measure of adherence or departure from established models of pitch organization. Alternative modes of notation, problematisation of modernist ideals of technique and virtuosity, and experimentation across genres and media as one finds in Jani Christou, are an uncomfortable fit. Consequently, not only Christou’s late works, but even the markedly less radical graphic output of Anestis Logothetis, are often portrayed as exceptional, idiosyncratic, if not downright exotic ‘anomalies’ in an otherwise neat local taxonomy. This approach inconspicuously collapses an entire force field of 20th-century cross-media currents and developments into one single opaque notion of modernism as a high-culture, post-Schoenbergian break with tradition, realized and communicated through a fixed set of Western Art Music genres and institutions.
What is left out are the relevant responses and contributions to these developments from artists who did not quite make the aforementioned canon, but contributed to a radical re-appropriation of post-war European modernism through different channels, be it the sound poetry and performance art of Christou’s contemporary Leonidas Christakis (1928–2009), the interdisciplinary collective interventions of Dimosioypalliliko Retire (1984–2006), or the extended notation and intermedia works of younger generation composers (e.g. Alexis Porfiriadis, b. 1971). In examining such cases, the ‘failed project’ narrative of Greek modernism becomes a rather more complex story, and lends itself more easily to a deeper, socially situated analysis. Starting with a re-evaluation of the current analytical literature on Christou’s cross-media compositions, the paper draws on a series of ‘liminal paradigms’ from the above fields, and considers methodologies for a more inclusive, analytically grounded account of post-1960s Greek modernism.