PIIGS Interview #1

A short interview: five questions, five answers to each question. One question each article, with five answers: a first real discussion.

Is there a common ground between all the PIIGS Countries? If Yes how would you describe it?

PT: The main reason why the PIIGS countries were grouped together is the substantial instability of their economies, which was an evident problem in 2009. All had experienced a severe economic downturn, budgetary and debt crisis, and intervention by international institutions.The five countries present high levels of unemployment and a very high proportion of those who are unemployed are long-term, indicating that the problem is becoming structural.They show increases in income poverty, with childhood poverty a particular problem in each and showing an increase in all countries since 2007.
All of the ‘PIIGS’ experienced increased emigration with the crisis. In all these countries social risks are increasing, social systems are being tested and individuals and families are under stress.Once the size of the PIIGS’ debt has become clear, investors are getting more and more reluctant to buy bonds from European countries, since many of those countries are heavily in debt — and the ones that aren’t in debt look like they might have to assume responsibility for the ones that are.

With the austerity measures and expenses’ budget cuts introduced by governments, we can say that culture is one of the fields, which has suffered the most, affecting the public cultural institutions. This fact led to the opening of independent and alternative art spaces, most of the times turning to private sponsors, that are currently decisive sites for contemporary art.Financial and psychological stability are inevitably interrelated. But even if there is a general feeling that things are not good, If in one hand the crisis is leading the actors of the art scene to struggling and often failing to cope, with many artists taken on second jobs to produce their artwork; In another hand, we can see acts of solidarity and resilience among the art community. As if the lack of expectation and the difficulties some how had brought other creative solutions and strengthen the bonds between everyone bringing a new sense of interconnectedness.
“Maybe art [lets us] state that we are able to live our lives, transforming fear to creation” says greek artist Christina Nakou.

IR: Yes. All the countries involved can be seen as being subjugated or classified as inferior to the ‘leading’ countries of Europe, whether historically or through recent economic upheaval and punishment.

IT: Yes, of course there is, but we need to look for the common ground between this countries much more in a logic of appearance and use of a such term rather than objective historical, social and economical reasons.
The derogatory nature of the idea of PIIGS existed in the 1980’s and 1990’s, in that period the South of Europe had been the undemocratic (with Spain, Portugal and Greece having a military, fascist dictatorship until the seventies), underdeveloped economically (with a poor economy) and culturally (with prejudices about the siesta, laziness, etc.). But only Economical Financial crisis of 2008 marked a turning point toward a racist discourse of distinction between the core and peripheral countries of the eurozone which united PIIGS together like never before.
Now its quite evident that euro-zone crisis had a very simple narrative at its heart: origins of it has to be found in the fiscal profligacy of this countries which are accustomed to live beyond their means and work less than other Europeans. This is exactly what this term represents. Anyway, such a strategy of European Union had a dual effects. From one point of view this acronym being framed in a typically offensive way reducing these peripheral countries to imagery of beasts, inferior animals, and certainly of non-humans creates invented label and an iconic image which legitimate it exclusion on economical, political and cultural level as a new form of colonialism within the Eurozone. From another the use of it forced to reinvent their common identity projection in support of particular political theses, like solidarity to what is judged to be “the poor and mistreated” and have had a powerful effect on the directions more critical public opinion toward a resistance of austerity and neoliberal policy.

GR: The PIIGS acronym is very reductive, as every other label it leaves so many parameters out. In economic terms all these countries are poor and indebted. However, this does not necessarily create a common ground between them. Poverty, unemployment, precarity and insecurity compose a common ground shared among many more people and countries except from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain.

SP: PIIGS Project formulation as a collective action focused, from curatorial and artistic critique, on the consequences of the crisis on the southern “block” of Europe, evidences a common ground among them. Cutting policies consequences and a centralized economic management for the two blocks (with two different speeds) has affected similarly to those countries. It brought them to a welfare system dismantling and poverty levels unknown since the end of the Second World War. Furthermore, policies centralization (not only the economic ones) has destabilized the political bodies self­sufficiency in these countries too, displacing decision making to Europe. The consequences of this critical situation maintained over time have affected each of the countries according to their original social and economic structure. It is here that we find differences between each of the cases, and where we could find the potential to create a meta­curatorial project like this. In this case, we should start talking about dissent, instead of consensus, to analyze the source of the problem. While the PIIGS countries belong to a common idiosyncratic framework, the Mediterranean, (with the exception of Ireland) their social, cultural and economic structures are far between. To analyze similarities lead us to a “victorious” result; to a common identity story that could be assimilated to that “sole” obsolete idea of Europe that Steiner told us about in The idea of Europe.
But this time, we should use the PIISG_AAGoC event, and the invitation to create national groups (not inter­nationals ones), to make a diagnosis of the situation of each of our countries. Because of our condition, we are aware of the cultural net of our immediate environment, represented by a national nomenclature, the name of a country, even without sharing a sense of identity belonging to it.
Our knowledge of that environment through our participation in it, going from the particular (local) to the general (PIIGS_AAGoC) to achieve a better analysis of another case that becomes particular (our country) in an European generality.

PT : Portugal
IR : Ireland
IT : Italy
GR : Greece
SP : Spain

#2#3#4 – #5

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