PIERRE CHAUMONT (QC-CA)
SEPTEMBER 1 - OCTOBER 15, 2022 - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Opening - Thursday, September 8 - 5-9PM
Tuesday – Saturday: 12–5PM
Credit: Djibril Drame
Pierre Chaumont is a conceptual artist living in Montreal, Canada. His work has been shown in the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Lebanon, Greece, Austria, Germany, Brazil, Slovenia, Spain and Canada. He is, among others, the recipient of the Atelier de l'île award from the MAC Lau (2018) and has received numerous grants from the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Québec.
"There Is No Alternative." This slogan, pushed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, is still and always part of our collective psyche. Whether it is in the environment, in the economy, on a social level or in politics, the individual is quickly discouraged by the number of efforts required to achieve a better world. There follows a defeatism and an acceptance of this slogan, and its ramifications, in exchange for a more and more restricted personal comfort. These small but constant losses inevitably lead to conflicts between people and governments. Demonstrations, strikes, and boycotts are then used. Historically set up by members of trade unions and people of left-wing political affiliation (1), the introduction of social networks will however bring, from 2010, a new system of participation and participants. The Aganaktismenoi is an example.
Greece was the country most affected in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2009. On the verge of bankruptcy, it accepted, in exchange for social reforms, several loans from a consortium of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the MFI (2). These changes led to massive layoffs, wage cuts and losses of up to 50 per cent in pension schemes (3). The movement of Aganaktismenoi, appears at the time of the second wave of reforms in Greece (2011- mid 2012) and is inspired by the actions of public occupation as that of Tahrir Square in Cairo or the Indignados in Spain. In the Greek case, it will be among others the Syntagma Square, the park facing the parliament, which will be the center of the demonstrations. The difference between the Aganaktismenoi and the traditional social demand movements comes from two things: the type of participants and its internal organization.
The first Greek anti-austerity movements are characterized by a mobilization of what Walgrave and Van Aelst categorize as "old" social movements (cited in Karyotis and Rüdig, 2018): men, mostly left-wing, and members of a professional union.
In contrast, with the Aganaktismenoi, a new form of social movement characterized by non-partisan and peaceful actions by individuals spread across the political spectrum, from apolitical to right-wing conservative, is emerging (Karyotis and Rüdig, 2018). At the base of these gatherings is an important use of social networks, both in terms of consuming political news and organizing for protests. Through this medium, the daily actions of the Aganaktismenoi called for a more direct and accountable democracy, in addition to an end to austerity measures. Likewise, in its organization, the movement was much less centralized and intended to be a grassroots movement, with self-managed, inclusive, diverse, fluid, and leaderless assemblies (Castells cited in Karyotis, 2018).
At the same time, as Serntedakis mentions, an idea of the "Social" emerges through this innovative way of doing things. This notion is embodied in "various activities and many forms of sociability to demarcate the spheres of selflessness, solidarity and subversion of government" (Rozakou cited by Sertedakis, 2017). Ranging from communal meal preparation to total hospitality where helpers and helped share the same roof, "Social" will become a process that will influence other initiatives outside of the Aganaktismenoi and will even last until the migration crisis of 2015. With this, the individual political action becomes a horizontal and dehierarchized vision, out of a historical way of doing.
Of course, the Aganaktismenoi is not a perfect solution and, as Serntedakis mentions, there is a very strong link between solidarity and crisis. The more the crisis becomes accepted, in other words, the less urgent, the more the individual and collective effort fades, but this movement is nevertheless an example, among many of the time, that change is possible. The Aganaktismenoi shows us that through a decentralization of individual social action, a deconstruction of traditional political membership in favor of horizontal assemblies, all supported by a technological system that connects people both inside and outside the political spectrum, real change can take place.
In the end, There Are Alternatives.
 Georgios Karyotis and Wolfgang Rüdig, The Three Waves of Anti-Austerity Protest in Greece, 2010–2015, Political Studies Review 2018, Vol. 16(2) p.158
 Giorgos Serntedakis, ‘Solidarity’ for Strangers: A Case Study of ‘Solidarity’ Initiatives in Lesvos, Etnofoor, Vol. 29, No. 2 (2017) , p.84
Photo credit: Alejandro Escamilla