Eleni Vlachaki

Current research/thesis title:

The Kapodistrian Orphanage and Aegina Prison: Can the arts function within a social context as a catalyst for change in our relationship with our past and our immediate environment?

"Within this historical and social context this practice led research explores the potential of material objects and practices through first-hand exposure to connect us to our past and with each other."

The Kapodistrian Orphanage was built (1828) to provide shelter and education to the orphans of the Greek War of Independence. At the same time, it was designed as the centre for the organisation and spreading of education and culture in the newly formed Greek State. In later years (1880) its function was reversed and for over a century it was used as a high security prison hosting prisoners and political detainees. The Aegina Prison was abolished in 1985. Despite plans for its reconstruction and reuse as a museum the historic building remains unfinished and inaccessible to the community.

Traumatic events in recent history culminating in the Greek Civil War -and more recently the dictatorship of the Colonels- marked and divided Greek society. The Kapodistrian Orphanage and Aegina Prison is caught between our historical associations of its 'illustrious' beginnings as a charitable institution and educational and cultural centre, and our living memory of its recent past as a prison; a painful reminder of what we would rather forget.

Within this historical and social context this practice led research explores the potential of material objects and practices through first-hand exposure to connect us to our past and with each other. It seeks through a sequence of parallel and interconnected activities and the direct involvement of the local community, to reveal the deep historical, social and political aspects pertaining to this building hoping to bring forward a shared awareness upon which to base a renewed effort towards its restoration and reuse.

Names of Supervisors: Mary Modeen, Dominic Smith