It sounds like a cliché, but the story behind the “Ellinika Yfantiria” looks like a fairy tale. It goes back in time, into the 19th century and the cosmopolitan Ottoman Empire and it expands on Piraeus Street, in the building complex where the Athens School of Fine Arts is housed in recent decades.
“Fabric” features the life cycle of “Greek Spinning and Weaving Mills”, but at the same time it is the narration of the greater framework in which the bourgeois citizens of the Ottoman Empire acted. It focusses on the role of Athens after 1922 and on the industrialization with the many workers’ hands of the refugees from Asia-Minor, on social responsibility, and on labor ethos.
documenta 14 “Fabric”: the story of the Sikiaridis family, the “Greek Spinning and Weaving Mills” and Athens School of Fine Arts
Piraeus Street, linking the Athens city center (Omonia Square) with the port of Piraeus, represents in a karmic way the starting point but also the development of the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASKT in Greek). At the beginning of Piraeus Street stands the Vlachoutsi Mansion, that housed the first Athens Polytechnic School, and further on the factory and residence of the Sikiaridis family. When in the early nineties Nikos Kessanlis, then dean of the Athens School of Fine Arts, was looking for a new spacious premises – away from the Polytechnic University complex on Patision Avenue – that would enable the expansion and development of his academy, the old factory “Greek Spinning and Weaving Mills” was saved by hosting the art school in 1992.
In the framework and after a request of “documenta 14” currently held in Athens, the descendants of the Sikiaridis family (Elizabeth and her brother Simos) have created “Fabric”, an 18 min. documentary that was shot on the same space that had once belonged to their family. The film is screened at the academy’s “Old Library”, accompanied by a small exhibition. It is a narration of the life cycle of the ” Greek Spinning and Weaving Mills ” and at the same time as the portrait of the era when the bourgeois subjects of the Ottoman Empire were active. There are references to the history of the Sikiaridis and Abazoglou families, that both coming from Eastern Cappadocia and bonded by marriage, and with stops in Istanbul and Beirut, settled in the mid 1920s in Athens and founded the factory.
documenta 14 show sheds light on family business
The story of Hellenic Textile Mill starts in the 19th century, in the cosmopolitan Ottoman Empire, and ends at a building complex on Pireos Street that has been home for the last few decades to the Athens School of Fine Arts, where the Sikiaridis and the Ambazoglou families, bonded by marriage, founded one of the country’s most important textile mills.
“Documenta asked us to make a short film about the premises that once belonged to our family,” says architect Elizabeth Sikiaridi, who is one of the narrators of the 18-minute documentary “Fabric,” along with her brother Simos Sikiaridis.
The film is being screened at the art school’s old library at 256 Pireos Street as part of the documenta 14 international art show. While detailing the history of the textile mill, the documentary also casts light on the lives of the middle and upper classes in the Ottoman Empire. In addition it offers insight into industrialization in Athens after 1922 and the influx of refugee workers from Asia Minor.
“The documentary presents the history of Hellenic Textile Mill but also the story of our family, which, starting from Cappadocia and stopping in Constantinople and Beirut, settled in Athens in the mid-1920s and founded the business,” says Sikiaridi. “There is virtually nothing left of the family’s history,” says Sikiaridi. “But the purpose for which the space is being used is perfect.”