During the Long Greek Crisis: Jan Fabre, The Greek Festival, and Metakénosis


  • Maria Mytilinaki Kennedy Independent Scholar




crisis, Greece, historiography, metakenosis, performance, Korais, translation, cultural transmission, self-representation, cultural hierarchies


During the fiscal, political, and social disorder caused by the Greek crisis, Greek cultural production has turned to obscure moments of Greek history, such as the Ottoman period, in an attempt to reframe dominant narratives. For Greek cultural politics, rejecting, or at least questioning the ancient past -- that was until now seen as the only valuable past -- is a way for Greek artists to reject Western perspectives on Greek culture and claim their own set of criteria by which to experience their national past. This aspect of the crisis, which is in some ways a renewed principle of historiographic judgment, inevitably presents itself in comparison to the highly influential Enlightenment philosophy of metakénosis. A term coined by Adamantios Korais (1748-1833), metakénosis referred to the transfer of the ideas of European liberal humanism through translation into Modern Greek, while dismissing Eastern influences in Greek culture. European thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was assumed by Korais to be based on classic Greek ideals, and its re-translation into Greek was undertaken in earnest in order to inspire sentiments of national unity, confidence in Greek letters, and continuity with the classical past.

For this proposed article, I examine Korais’s highly consequential principle and its legacy by looking at a recent scandal in the Greek theatre world, that of Jan Fabre’s short-lived appointment as artistic director of the Greek Festival in 2016. A large group of Greek theatre artists circulated a letter of protest in which they asked Fabre to resign. In their responses to Jan Fabre’s perceived appropriation of their festival, these artists seemed to be reversing the metakénosis model as they expressed their opposition to standards of cultural value imposed from abroad. The context of the crisis, as fiscal crisis, but also as a new paradigm of krisis as judgment, was instrumental in voicing this protest.

Author Biography

Maria Mytilinaki Kennedy, Independent Scholar

Maria Mytilinaki Kennedy recently received her PhD from the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). Her dissertation is entitled Theatre Translation as Historiography: Projections of Greek Self-Identity through English Translations during the European Crisis. She has taught Theatre and Communication at Hunter College, Baruch College, and the College of Staten Island. She is a translation reviewer for The Mercurian and has worked as a dramaturg for the New York Shakespeare Exchange and the National Theatre of Northern Greece. She received her BA and MA in Theatre from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and her MA in Translation Studies from the University of Warwick.


Athens and Epidaurus Festival. “History.” Accessed August 5, 2018. http://greekfestival.gr/history/?lang=en

Augustinos, Olga. 2008. “Philhellenic Promises and Hellenic Visions: Korais and the Discourses of the Enlightenment.” In Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity. Edited by Katerina Zacharia, 169–200. Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Bishop, Claire. 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London and New York: Verso.

Diamandouros, Nikiforos. 2000. Πολιτισμικός δυϊσμός και πολιτική αλλαγή στην Ελλάδα της μεταπολίτευσης [Cultural dualism and political change in post-dictatorship Greece]. Athens: Alexandria.

Dimadi, Ileana. 2016a. “Ελληνικό Φεστιβάλ: Ένα είναι βέβαιο, ο Φαμπρ ξέρει να ταράζει” [Greek Festival: One Thing for Sure, Fabre Knows How to Cause a Stir]. Athinorama, March 29, 2016. http://www.athinorama.gr/theatre/article/elliniko_festibal_2016_ena_einai_bebaio_o_fampr_kserei_na_tarazei_-2513213.html.

Dimadi, Ilean. 2016b. “Φεστιβάλ Αθηνών-Επιδαύρου 2016: Διεθνές και Πλουραλιστικό σε Χρόνο Ρεκόρ” [Athens and Epidaurus Festival 2016: International and Pluralistic in Record Time]. Athinorama, May 17, 2016. http://www.athinorama.gr/theatre/article/festibal_athinon_epidaurou_2016_diethnes_kai _plouralistiko_se_xrono_rekor-2514192.html.

Georgakopoulou, Vena. 2016. “Le Festival c’est moi.” Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών [Efimerida ton Syntakton] March 29, 2016. Accessed September 4, 2016. http://www.efsyn.gr/arthro/le-festival-c-est-moi.

Herzfeld, Michael. 1987. Anthropology Through the Looking Glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Herzfeld, Michael. 2002. “The Absence-Presence: Discourses of Crypto-Colonialism.” South Atlantic Quarterly 101 (4): 899–926. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-101-4-899

Ioannidis, Grigoris. 2016. “Le Theatre Grec en Periode Transitoire.” Théâtre Public 222: 70–79.

Ioannidou, Eleftheria and Natascha Siouzouli. 2014. “Crisis, Ruptures, and the Rapture of an Imperceptible Aesthetics: A Recent History of the Hellenic Festival.” Gramma 22 (2): 109–120.

Kanellopoulos, Dimitris. 2015. “Αποκλειστικό: Αγιοποιείται ο Γιώργος Λούκος” [Exclusive: Yiorgos Loukos Is Declared a Saint]. December 31, 2015. Accessed September 4, 2016. http://www.efsyn.gr/arthro/apokleistiko-agiopoieitai-o-giorgos-loykos.

Korais, Adamantios. 1877. Memoire sur l’état actuel de la civilization dans la Grèce. Lu a la Societe des Observateurs de l'homme, le 16 Nivose, an XI (6 Janvier 1803). Par Coray, docteur de Medecine, et Membre de Ladite Societe. 1803, in Lettres inédits et opuscules divers de Coray. Paris: Firmin-Didot. https://archive.org/details/lettresinditesd01koragoog.

Korais, Adamantios.1958. “Ακολουθία και τέλος των Αυτοσχέδιων Στοχασμών περί της Ελληνικής παιδείας και γλώσσης” [Addendum and Ending to Impromptu Reflections on Greek Education and Language]. In Ο Κοραής και η Εποχή του, [Korais and His Time]. Edited by K. Th. Dimaras, 156–71. Athens: Zacharopoulos.

I Kathimerini, 2015. “Στο 26,6% αυξήθηκε το ποσοστό ανεργίας το α΄ τρίμηνο του 2015” [Unemployment Rate Rises to 26.6% in the First Trimester of 2015]. June 12, 2015. Accessed: August 5, 2018. http://www.kathimerini.gr/818997/article/oikonomia/ellhnikh-oikonomia/sto-266-ay3h8hke-to-pososto-anergias-to-a-trimhno-toy-2015to-a-trimhno-toy-2015.

Kabouropoulos, Socrates. 2016. “The Age of Discontent – Greek publishing through six years of austerity.” The Cultural Politics of the Greek Crisis blog. Accessed August 5, 2018. https://culpolgreekcrisis.com/2016/01/12/the-age-of-discontent-greek-publishing-through-six-years-of-austerity/.

Kitromilides, Paschalis. 2013. Enlightenment and Revolution: The Making of Modern Greece. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kondylis, Panagiotis. 1998. Ο Νεοελληνικός Διαφωτισμός: οι φιλοσοφικές ιδέες [The Greek Enlightenment: The Philosophical Ideas]. Athens: Themelio.

Kornetis, Kostis. 2010. “No More Heroes? Rejection and Reverberation of the Past in the 2008 Events in Greece.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 28 (2): 173–97. https://doi.org/10.1353/mgs.2010.0420

Liakos, Antonis. 2014. “Has the Crisis Changed Greeks’ Perceptions of Their Past?” Lecture, New York University, November 20, 2014.

Liakos, Antonis. 2008. “Historical Time and National Space in Modern Greece.” In Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity. Edited by Katerina Zacharia, 201–36. Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Liakos, Antonis, and Hara Kouki. 2015. “Narrating the Story of a Failed National Transition: Discourses of the Greek Crisis, 2010–2014.” Historein 15 (1): 49–61. https://doi.org/10.12681/historein.318

Lymperopoulou, Katerina. 2013. “Ο πολιτισμός της κρίσης” [Culture during the Crisis]. To Vima, March 3, 2013. http://www.tovima.gr/culture/article/?aid=500708.

Mackridge, Peter. 2008. “National Identity in Modern Greece.” In Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity. Edited by Katerina Zacharia, 297–320. Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Maltezou, Renée. 2016. “Greece Picks Own Director to Head Arts Festival after Belgian Artist Quits.” Reuters. April 4, 2016. Accessed: August 5, 2018. http://reut.rs/25GNffA.

Murray-Leach, Tamsin. ed. 2014. Crises Discourses in Europe Crisis Discourses in Europe: Media EU-phemisms and Alternative Narratives. Background paper, London School of Economics. http://www.gcsknowledgebase.org/europe/files/2014/07/CrisisDiscoursesinEurope.pdf.

Papanikolaou, Dimitris. 2011. “Archive Trouble.” In Beyond the Greek Crisis: Histories, Rhetorics, Politics. Edited by Penelope Papailias, n.p. Cultural Anthropology Online, October 26, 2011. http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/247-archive-trouble.

Patsalidis, Savas. 2016. “Οι περιπέτειες της νέας (ελληνικής) θεατρικής γραφής” [The adventures of new (Greek) playwriting]. The Greek Play Project, January 23, 2016. http://www.greektheatre.gr/public/gr/greekplay/index/reviewview/68.

Patsalidis, Savas, and Anna Stavrakopoulou. 2014. “Introduction: From the Years of Utopia to the Years of Dystopia.” Gramma 22 (2): 7–16.

Pavis, Patrice. 1992. Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture. London and New York: Routledge.

Proto Thema [Πρώτο Θέμα]. 2016. “Οι επιστολές των καλλιτεχνών που ζητούν παραίτηση από τους Μπαλτά και Φαμπρ” [The artists’ letters requesting Baltas’s and Fabre’s resignations]. April 1, 2016. Accessed August 5, 2018. http://www.protothema.gr/culture/article/566771/oi-epistoles-ton-kallitehnon-pou-zitoun-paraitisi-apo-tous-balta-kai-fabr/.

Stefanou, Eleni. 2016. “Greek Arts Festival in Turmoil as Artists Rebel over Curator’s ‘Belgian’ Vision.” Guardian, April 5, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/05/greek-arts-festival-athens-epidaurus-in-turmoil-cultural-colonialism.

Sykka, Yiota. 2015. “Η ‘φούσκα’ του αθηναϊκού θεάτρου,” [The ‘Bubble’ of Athenian Theatre] I Kathimerini, May 16, 2015. http://www.kathimerini.gr/815405/article/politismos/8eatro/h-foyska-toy-a8hnaikoy-8eatroy.

Troubleyn Jan Fabre. 2016. “Open Letter from Jan Fabre and His Team in Reply to the Letter by Greek Artists.” Facebook page, April 8, 2016. http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=66f70b9202e3612f601729153&id=4e2cde448e.

Triandafyllidou, Anna, Ruby Roupas, and Hara Kouki, eds. 2013. The Greek Crisis and European Modernity. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Zaroulia, Marilena. 2015. “Greece Still Remains: Performing Crisis, Nostalgia and Willfulness,” (lecture, Birkbeck, University of London, May 9, 2015). Manuscript published on Academia.edu. Accessed August 5, 2018. http://www.academia.edu/12204871/Greece_Still_Remains_Performing_Crisis_Nostalgia_and_Willfulness




How to Cite

Mytilinaki Kennedy, Maria. 2018. “During the Long Greek Crisis: Jan Fabre, The Greek Festival, and Metakénosis”. Performance Philosophy 4 (1):25-38. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2018.41209.