I can't say that it didn't surpise me to hear that the person appointed director of the Greek/Athens/International Festival was Jan Fabre, an artist still active -and yet not at his prime of course...I thought it was just another "don't-know-how" on the part of the government. I wasn't even sure if they had any clue exactly whom they had appointed in that position.
I called a friend and I expressed my worries and stated the above mentioned thoughts plus a prediction, that Fabre wouldn't last. Why? Because it is Fabre who -exactly like he declared- is not an administrator, because I didn't for a moment thought that his team would have the time to prepare or that they would have a clue about the situation in Greece, and last but not least, because the whole setting awaiting for him wouldn't have bothered to gather a strong team to help him get in touch with this country, but it seemed that any briefing, if it did take place, was undequate and he seemd like he was left on his own, like an acrobat who is walking on a rope over a cliff and someone pulls the safety net from underneath.The most important obstacle being of course the cult of the previous director, (whose administration is under investigation at the moment), who was probably the biggest icon of the gay life in Athens, plus artists, socialites and journalists alike.
I don't believe that it was just the "Belgian cycle" (that turned out sour like the life of the heroes of the ancient Greek tragic family cycles) that got Fabre into troubled waters. It did a lot to enrage people, but it was the wind of change (for better or for worse, that was to be seen) that scared conformists, enfants gates of culture, voters of the government and many more. What followed is now almost history, but if I were to discern the most lamentable moments of that cultural ordeal, would be:
-the lack of support, knowledge and organisation on the part of the government
-the total succumb to pressure from the logic of syndicalism
-the ridicule with nationalist overtones of Fabre's work, especially Mount Olympus
-the decisions about cultural policy in centres far away from the ministry of culture
-Fabre's total lack of understanding of the post-colonial country he came to work in.
I always tell my students the example of Isadora Duncan when we discuss colonialism, fieldwork and anthropology: how her lack of understanding damaged the relationship with Greece but also her work, mood and finances. To go to a sunny "paradise" -which is furthermore in financial and humanitarian crisis- all enthousiastic about the prospect of showing a know-how on top of free-spirited admiration with a touch of change, is the recipe for failure. And the worst part is that after such incidents things retrogress at even more narrow-minded territories than before. Isadora left for Vienna, but dance was left for decades to the revivalists of the Chorus of the (wonderful) ancient texts.