Contemporary crisis and mythical inspiration in a Greek design collection
by Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi
When one thinks of Atlantis, a phantasm of decadence and splendor floods the senses, harkening a city at the height of its glory. For the "Atlantish: quite like Atlantis" collection, design collective Greece Is For Lovers (GIFL) turned to the present to communicate the allegorical allure of the past through modest design classics synonymous to Grecian culture. GIFL designer Thanos Karampatos says he wanted to "play with the idea of how the current and the antique are often blurred." The ubiquitous and somewhat nondescript styrofoam water cooler is peppered throughout fishing docks and port cities across Greece, while disposable paper cloth adorns the tables of provincial tavernas all over Greece. Yet with Greece on the brink of a financial crisis, these objects possess a nostalgia quite like Atlantis, symbolic of a bygone era of innocence.
In that vein, as an ode to the historical vestiges of Atlantis, a plastic water cooler was sculpted into a luxe red earthen clay pot while trite tablecloths were turned into precious silk twill scarves emblematic of the lost city. The end result straddles the line of calculated irony and metaphoric reverence, with neither evoking a retrogressive aesthetic. At the same time, utility and integrity are not lost in the beautifying process. "Our products always have a utilitarian aspect but we insist on giving priority to emotive qualities and metaphors," reflected Karampatos. Indeed, both recreations are sensitive to the distinction of Atlantis, but in their functionality do not capitulate in addressing the present. Karampatos feels this mirrors his current country's plight in that Greece "obsess over the glory of the past rather than firmly focusing on the problematic present and future to come."
"Atlantish: quite like Atlantis" had a recent unveiling at the 2011 Tent London design trade show and the metaphorical significance of the collection resonated among fair-goers. Despite standing as one of their more opinionated pieces of work, Karampatos comments that "this is by no means a campaign for Greece. Of course the Greek crisis has been an inspiration factor around this in a symbolic way of how Greek people interpret the chasm between the glorious past and the bleak present." In keeping with the ephemeral beauty of Atlantis, the limited series of just seven ceramic decanters sell for €350. The scarves, on the other hand, will be a permanent part of the GIFL product range and will be available soon online.