The ECHIC conference
Run in collaboration with The University of the Peloponnese, the range of papers at ECHIC 2019 (European Consortium for Humanities Institutes and Centres) was invigorating. Discussions during and around the sessions were lively and diverse, with much evidence of collegiality and passion for collaboration.
Talks ranged from more philosophical investigations of the role of arts and humanities in shaping European research education policy, to descriptions and demonstrations of specific projects showing interventions that change places and lives. Some examples:
Rick Rylance, Vice-Chancellor for Research and Dean of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) at University of London spoke on The Creative Economy and New Challenges for Humanities Research (see the report Zoe Bulaitis wrote for Alluvium https://www.alluvium-journal.org/2019/04/30/on-creative-industries-and-cultural-democracy/ for more on his talk)
The HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) team showcased a range of their projects – including Arctic Encounters – and focused on Joanna Sofaer’s project Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (CinBA) linking creative practitioners with archaeologists.
Zoe Bulaitis, who works with the Creative Industries Policy & Education Centre at Manchester University, spoke on The Impact in and of the Academic Humanities: Lessons We Might Learn from a History of Public Museum Policy.
Colleagues from the University of Athens presented work on the ΠΙΣΕΤΟ Project, which uses digital storytelling games to encourage engagement with museums’ collections and spaces.
Artist and educator Katarzyna Piriankov presented a paper on the ‘Utopian Futurism of A Dying Village’ detailing how the Staro Zhelezare Street Art Festival – playing with ideas of celebrity, commemoration and art tourism – has led to communication across generations, places, genres and media.
And the artist Aemilia Papaphilippou presented her work Chess Continuum: Reoccupying the Ancient Agora of Athens and Other Stories on Connectedness. See http://www.aemiliapapaphilippou.com/site/iPad/ for more on her work.
Max Saunders, Alisa Miller and Lisa Gee delivered the Ego-Media presentation on behalf of the team, showcasing the full range of our work (see https://www.ego-media.org/projects/). Our project was greeted with enthusiasm: its humanist and interdisciplinary approach to social media and self-expression was well-received, and provoked lots of questions.
Huge thanks to Angeliki Spiropoulou and her team for organising such a stimulating conference and for making us feel so welcome.
The elephant in the room
That the conference took place in Athens, with its omnipresent reminders of the legacies of intellectual debate and democracy, was significant, particularly for those of us travelling from the UK, where the values of our common European heritage and a shared, collaborative future are underappreciated and threatened by Brexit.
It was great – but melancholy for those of us representing UK institutions – to hear from George Moschovis, Deputy Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Greece about forthcoming EU funding for research in the arts and humanities. UK Higher Education will be much the poorer for Brexit – financially, but also in terms of opportunities for connection and collaboration.
Greek culture and heritage
We were also fortunate that we had the time to explore some of the historical sites in Athens. We were guided round Acropolis in the wind and the rain (but, luckily, missed the lightning), which was fascinating.
The Acropolis Museum
An awe-inspiring Museum, beautifully laid out, which also (incidentally) has a café that serves a delicious orange hot chocolate, and was very welcome after the climb and descent in the rain!
The National Archeological Museum
Along with the mask of Agamemnon, the highlight at this Museum has to be the Antikythera Mechanism – hailed as the world’s first (analogue) computer. As an object it is functional and beautiful, and complements the Museum’s broader collection, which contains fantastical and practical objects that attest to humans’ prevailing preoccupation with – and pursuit of – creativity, craft and design.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
The scale of this temple is breathtaking.
Text by Lisa Gee & Alisa Miller