Historical Memory vs. Historical Oblivion
The following extract can be used as complement to the first activity (4. Historical and Social Context) and the fourth activity.
During the seasonal exhibition of the “Research Center – Tsitsanis Museum” there’s been a reference to this prison, since letters, a minimum number of personal belongings, and tools from the prison’s carpentry used for the training programs for the prisoners are introduced to the public. There are also two phones that the prisoners were using to speak with their families during the visiting hours. During the exhibition in those two phones one could listen to Vassilis Tsitsanis’ songs “Two Alleys of Trikala” and “The Son of the Hawk Mother.” The lyrics of the second song were written by Kostas Virdos, who was also from the city of Trikala, and both songs are related to the topic of imprisonment, but from different angles. Does this indicate that someday a place of memory for the city will actually exist? “Our aim is the history of the prison to be included in the museum,” answers the mayor of Trikala Dimitris Papastergiou. “This will happen in two ways: the museum will feature historical material and the former administration building of the detention center will feature audiovisual material. Currently the material is being examined by museologists to be further specified as an exhibit.”
[…] The shots of the film present the deserted scenery of the prison. We can observe scattered records on the floor – some of which are saved by Maroula Kliafa, who is a defender of the opinion that all material with the voices of the people should find a place in the new museum. “Above all, these records have cultural value. It’s part of the system’s documentation and of the prison’s everyday life that was kept for decades. It should be protected and part of it should be exhibited in a certain wing of the Vassilis Tsitsanis Research Center. The rest of it should be kept in a place accessible to all researchers and PhD candidates”, the director states. That’s why it is so important not only to create a wing dedicated to the history of the prison, but also to organize meetings and public conversations dealing with the issue of our correctional system. The things a society chooses to remember or forget don’t only show its values, but could also put society into a dangerous orbit towards oblivion.
The English Example
[…] December 2016 was the last month of an exhibition under the title“Inside,” which was set in the prison of Reading – a Victorian era style building, which was used until lately as a male reform school. London organization “Artangel” organized an exhibition along with parallel events with the participation of 30 renowned artists – among them, Patti Smith and Ai Weiwei – dealing with the themes of imprisonment and separation.
Works of art by significant visual artists and photographers were hosted in the tiny cells. During the exhibition, artists, writers and poets payed tribute to the most famous inmate of the prison, the author Oscar Wilde, by reading aloud extracts from his work titled De Profundis and a letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (in any case, the reason of his imprisonment was his homosexuality). The readings were taking part inside the small chapel of the prison every Sunday. Writers from all over the world were called to write letters based either on private experience or fictional ones, on the theme of the compelled separation from the beloved ones with the decision of the state. Among those letters there was one written by the female author Gillian Slovo to her mother, Ruth First, an activist from South Africa who tried to commit suicide in the solitary confinement ward.
This certain kind of an exhibition might be extremely innovative for the standards of Greek reality. The less that could be done would be to ensure the access of the citizens and the visitors to the documentation of the prison, especially during an age when recent records in Greece are being destroyed instead of being kept. Furthermore, a research could be done concerning the relation of the prison with the Rebetiko music, whereas exhibitions and readings on the theme of imprisonment can be organized in order to preserve the memory of the prison, along with the prosecutions and executions of the citizens by the state due to their political beliefs. (Melina Sidiropoulou, Inside Story, https://insidestory.gr/article/fylakes-trikalon?token=3A81E09ZAG)