The Eleusis European Capital of Culture 2023 has invited Beforelight to light up the winter solstice, the longest night of this uncanny, pandemic year, through a project in public space, inspired by the location itself and its history.

The inspiration: “Light Sgraffito” installation is the result of participatory design through a series of workshops with the local community of Elefsina. It draws its inspiration from folklore traditions of the island of Chios, and more specifically, from the medieval technique known as “Xysta”. “Xysta” are a distinct kind of graffiti patterns that appear at the village of Pyrgi, one of the medieval villages of Chios. They are geometric decorations scratched on the plaster that covers the exterior of every house. This technique utilizes the black sand in the coating, as after it is whitewashed, patterns are scratched, resulting in black shapes on a white background.

The installation: The large three-floor facade of the square became the canvas of the art intervention. A special metal scaffolding was designed, decorated with “xysta” patterns, and with linear lighting fixtures. In the daylight, “Light Sgraffito” interacts with the sunlight, creating shadows on the blind side at the back of the installation. At night, the patterns are lightened up to stand out from the background as dark silhouettes contrasted to the light outlines along the construction. This light installation creates new geometrical and light experiments.

The location: Agia Markella Square in Ano Elefsina is a new square surrounded by fenced house yards and is characterized by low surrounding constructions and the presence of a small church. The local community uses the square daily as a gathering spot and playground, creating a very strong sense of neighbourhood. Moreover, the presence of Chian community, gives a strong element of identity in the square, with the feast of St. Markella being held annually. The first Chians arrived in Elefsina, leaving behind their special homeland, to work in the factories of Elefsina, which were to become their second home.

The workshop: The project was developed progressively since September 2019, through a composite participatory workshop that was carried out in eight phases, with the participation of 15 residents of Elefsina. Under the coordination of Beforelight, and through conversations with scientists, artists and light designers, the participants became familiar with the different concepts and uses of light and its multiple possibilities as a medium for expression and as a tool for creative intervention in the public space of the neighbourhood and the city.

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