Banska Bystrica – Athens How can we exert sustainable and constructive influence on public discourse on the subjects of borders, freedom and democracy?

Banská Bystrica, an old mining town in Slovakia, the core of the national uprising against Nazi rule in 1944, has been governed by an elected neo-Fascist mayor since 2013. Hate has become more conspicuous here in the form of agitation against minorities and the EU; recently, a reading by a Holocaust survivor was massively disrupted by Holocaust deniers. Záhrada is an alternative arts centre in Banská Bystrica fighting alongside the Goethe-Institut Bratislava for free spaces and meeting places in the heart of Slovakia.


Athens-Banská Bystrica
The Athens-Bratislava tandem are working on various projects. Filmmaker Constantinos Hadzinikolaou and artist Yota Ioannidou are making an experimental documentary film in Athens entitled Ghosts of Freedom. Based on the murder of the Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in February 2018, this portmanteau film deals with the limits of freedom of speech, the illusion of a liberal democracy and the forces undermining democracy: mafia practices, the spreading of fake news, fake politics.

The city of Banská Bystrica in central Slovakia is currently preparing for the Embargo Festival (9–12 December 2018), which is about human rights, tolerance and mutual understanding. It will be held at the Záhrada cultural centre in association with the Not In Our Town initiative. At the festival, discussions, lectures, performance art and an exhibition as well as theatrical productions and film screenings will shed light on the current socio-political climate, including its rightward shift and the mounting threats to many hard-won liberties. All the project partners from Slovakia and Greece, along with plenty of other artists and intellectuals involved in the Freiraum project, are invited and will be taking part in the festival, which will be the subject of a catalogue and filmed documentation.
As the third element of their Freiraum collaboration, Athens and Bratislava are planning a “Commemoration Tree”, a tree commemorating the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and calling for steadfast commitment to safeguarding freedom of speech. A symbolic tree will be planted in a public place in each of these cities with an explanatory plaque in English, Greek and Slovak.

(October 2018)

Our Partners

The initiative Not In Our Town opposes racism and xenophobia and seeks to build an inclusive society. It uses film, social media and organizational tools to promote civic engagement at a local level. Founded in 2011, the Záhrada Cultural Center is a contemporary arts space and important meeting place that delivers over 200 events a year.

An article from the Visual Seminar

In the Greek newspaper Efsyn (Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών) an article from the Visual Seminar in Athens of Zahrada was published. In December 2018 the journalist, Vassiliki Grammatikogianni, will be in Banska Bystrica for the Human Rights Festival.

From Vasiliki Grammatikogianni "What happened to us?“

The original article:
Συντάκτης: Βασιλική Γραμματικογιάννη
Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών
Zeitung der Redakteure
Vassiliki Gramatikogianni

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