Greece had a tumultuous year. In January, a far-left government swept to power, a defiant finance minister challenged Eurozone-imposed austerity, and, even as negotiations with creditors proved tense, a triumphant referendum provided the mandate of a Greek people as furious with austerity as they were wounded by it. And yet, very little ultimately changed. The government, though critical of the terms, has swallowed yet another round of loans, agreeing to endure further austerity, prompting a general strike in November. Tear gas, molotov cocktails, and riot police filled the streets of Athens yet again.
The images of November’s strike are reminiscent of those that appeared in newspapers when Greece was gripped by austerity-induced violence in 2011 and 2012, as riot police confronted demonstrators. It is those photographs that Greek artist Panos Tsagaris painfully asks us to confront. Tsagaris took copies of the New York Times, which covered the events, blanketing the articles in a leafy gold foil, leaving only images of violent clashes between police and demonstrators. The extremely kinetic images are almost comically juxtaposed with the paper’s banal masthead: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Gold and glinting, the foil slides its viewers’ eyes towards the violence while preventing them from finding erudite solace in articles that would journalistically explain economics with cold detachment. Tsagaris’s work reminds us that austerity takes its ultimate toll not on economic markets but on the human body.