013 | Insert More Coins
Article written by Emma Whiffen for Lost Athina.
Athens is a city bound by its street culture. Its narrow laneways, pedestrianised promenades and busy thoroughfares give the impression of an endless wakefulness, a theatre of rhythms, rituals and encounters typical of daily life.
Most recently, the street has reflected the contradictions and complexities of a society in flux. This is manifested in the vibrant and diverse street art that adorns the surfaces of this city. The multiple layers of art, tagging, post-ups and murals provide a litmus of the Athenian views and social habits.
Ben Fuog is a Melbourne-based artist and Philhellene who has cultivated inspiration from, as well as used Athens as a canvas. “I experience Athens as a truly beautiful city, a city so full of differing paraphernalia that adds to the incredible character of the city and tends to unveil itself at every corner,” says Ben. “Experiencing these situations I’ve become more inspired, intrigued and infuriated.”
For Ben, art is born form the provocation of ideas and emotions – and there is plenty of that to be found on the streets of Athens. Several of Ben’s previous works embody the contrasting climate and consciousness of Athens at the time of completion. For example, Ben’s ‘Free Coin Project’ (2011) reflects the chaos thrown up by the conflicting ideologies of the financial crisis.
“In 2009 I was blown away by the amount of street art in Athens. The city’s walls everywhere, and I mean everywhere, had etched out on them the thoughts of Athenians,” Ben recollects. “It really provided an insight into the local psyche. It had a lasting effect on me and I was convinced that I needed to add something to this library in some way or another.”
The Free Coin is a silver and gold fabrication of a one euro coin, and features the Owl of Athena who represents the goddess of wisdom. “I distorted one of her wings to show a ’Na’ like gesture and replaced the word ‘Euro’ with ‘Elefthero’ meaning free,” explains Ben. Posted at random on bins, walls, signs and street furniture, the Free Coins add to the rich tapestry of existing street art that share common themes of economic repression, heartbreak and hope.
“Trying to look through politics and a select few’s want for power, and trying to highlight the hypocrisy and stupidity of that desire is something healthy we can all strive for in order to keep society and community sane,” says Ben.
Ben is excited to return to Athens in June, where he can once again indulge in, and be part of, the vibrancy of her streets. “The streets are life for Athenians and they love them; they’re a place for meeting, congregating, eating, debating,” he says.
“If you look at Athens from above – from say atop Lykavitos or the Acropolis – it conjures an image of a singular brain with its neurons and synapses firing away; the streets are her soul.”
For more on Ben’s art check out his website.