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An installation by Angelos Spartalis on the wetland of Almyros in Agios Nikolaos, Crete. The work, a totem-like sign, consists of a text and seven photographic stills from the latest animation film by Spartalis “192 Nausiêaa”(Greece, 14 minutes, 2021).The twenty-seven original sketches that have been scattered around the area, freely available to the public, are also part of the installation and all together form the very short film found on top of this page. All of the above were installed on the wetland on Saturday April 3rd, 2021. This work is the first of three public space interventions by Spartalis in the broader area of Agios Nikolaos as part of the public art festival “The spirit of the stairs” curated by Theofilos Tramboulis and Eleni Koukou.


 

 

 

THE TEXT ON THE SIGN

3…2…1… Duckturn babyyyyy!!! That’s what my family an I use to yell every time we drive past this very spot, and we often do, usually three times a day. On another tone, even though we often have Duck à l'Orange on Sundays, we see those ducks here differently, more affectionately let’s say. And we don’t like seeing them being run over by a car. However, these last few weeks, they seem to have been under a weird spell because they keep on wandering on the motorway instead of swimming in the wetland. Therefore, after a couple of them became victims of road rage, a caring soul installed a makeshift totem-like sign that reads: “ATTENTION, DUCKS” (you can see this sign approximately 150m away from the “duckturn” heading to Sitia. I was so moved by this person’s act of kindness that I decided to build my own totem. And so, here it is! The images I have included in the totem are stills from my latest animated short film, “192 Nausikaa” in which princess Nausikaa nurses the ingenious Ulysses with the help of her friends-maids. The film was shot with real actors, and then every frame was hand-painted. The washing of Ulysses by the maids was shot here, in the wetland of Almyros, where, for reasons of historical accuracy, the legendary beach bar “Blue River” (A) was transformed into an ancient temple of goddess Artemis. That’s all.


 

 

 

INSTALLATION DIARY

Saturday April 3rd, 2021 (1st day)
I
left my Vathy estate at 10 a.m. and by 3 p.m. the installation had been completed. The first visitors were a couple of young cyclists followed by a group of three people on a walk. They showed mild to almost brave interest; we talked about art in general and about the installation in particular. No one dared to remove one of the available sketches but they all did so after my prompt. There was also a girl who systematically feeds the ducks with leftovers she collects from the area and loves the ducks as if they were her own children, which was nice but also funny. Later on, I was interviewed for the local newspaper “Anatoli” by my friend, journalist Nikos Trantas.


Sunday April 4th, 2021
I was so anxious when I arrived
in the wetland installation at noon. It was the second day of the installation and I was wondering what might have happened to my small artwork… Everything was in place! The sign had not been knocked off by the wind. In any case, I had brought some wooden supports with me to enhance its stability. I installed them with a little help from a passerby who was also a fanatic supporter of the ducks. From the 27 available sketches only 10 were missing; people become embarrassed when it comes to stealing art, if it were cast steel manhole covers or bronze sculptures they would have disappeared in a flash. Then -surprise! - another girl appeared who cursed the ducks as non-endemic species who need to be “wiped out with a speargun” otherwise “bye-bye wetland”! I realized I was in trouble but I liked it.

Monday April 5th, 2021
The newspaper “Anatoli” came out with a
 full-page article on the installation and my face on the front page. My phone was ringing non-stop. The article by Nikos Trantas also mentioned that the installation is linked to the public art festival “The spirit of the stairs” in Agios Nikolaos. The reference begins with the stone stairs which lead from the randomly built buildings next to the old national road to the mouth of Almyros River. The scene in my film “192 Nausikaawhere Ulysses is bathing was shot there, and we had to digitally erase the “Blue River” beach bar and create the temple of Artemis (see photo). The idea behind the work however doesn’t relate to the stairs, not even to the ducks but eventually we shall see. Things are going well. A good friend of mine, Sophia, sent me a picture via messenger with the first duck-sketch in a frame, so we are all very excited.

Tuesday April 6th, 2021
After 3 days everything
was still in place. The totem-like sign was there, steady as a rock. The red letters on the sign that readsATTENTION, DUCKS” seemed a little faded so I coated them over with red acrylic paint and now they are shining. Only seven out of the twenty-seven original sketches were left on the wooden fence; soon I will be replacing them with the second part of the series (27 more works). I intend to renew the works on a regular basis. I also installed three 
QR-coded signs near the installation, so that visitors can scan them using their smartphones to be automatically redirected to this very page. I coated over the letters of the original “ATTENTION, DUCKS” sign (the one that inspired me) with white acrylic paint; the original letters were black on dark blue background and could not be read very easily, now they are shining.

Wednesday April 7th, 2021
Only three sketches left. Tomorrow I’ll place the second series of sketches (27 more). These new sketches are based on the same drafts as the first ones. However, each one is unique given that they are all hand-drawn. I'll also add an extra finish with a light varnish to protect them against the forecasted rain. These past few days I have getting around on foot because my car, the legendary BMW 318i which my father brought from Germany back in 1989, is being used in the filming of the TV series “Cartes postales” whose script has been written by my friend Victoria Hislop. Victoria is really excited and she sent me a photo of the car which is currently being modified into a wedding limousine! So… now it’s just me and my own two feet! I had to walk 7kms from the estate to Almyros in one hour.

Thursday April 8th, 2021
Again on foot. I arrived at 3 p.m. and started hanging the new sketches on the wooden fence of the wetland. A guy and his son were flying two small drones and he said to me in a somewhat direct and harsh fashion: “You do know that not all of us feel the same about the ducks. Right?” he said. “Yes, I know. Do you know how the ducks ended up here in the first place?” To set the record straight, these “ducks” that I keep on mentioning are no more than 20 and 3-4 of them are not ducks but geese. A dog passed and the geese attacked it, this is what they do, I didn’t know that! So I said to the drone guy that the ducks were brought to the wetland from the lake of Agios Nikolaos (lake Voulismeni) many years ago because their droppings were soiling the tables and the chairs of the cafés/restaurants. They made the wetland their home, it wasn’t that difficult. After all, they were brought here and this “duck squatting” just happened, it was not their fault. Anyway, regardless of what we think about these ducks, the fact that they are being run over by cars is not nice, right? Actually, the main problem of the wetland is not the presence of the ducks. The real problem lies elsewhere and it is a grimmer one… Hoo-hoo…

Friday April 9th, 2021
It was pouring yesterday night but the varnish protected the sketches. From the 27 sketches of the second series that I hung yesterday on the fence, only 10 have been left. So I think tomorrow I’ll bring the third series because during the weekend probably more people will come for a walk. With the third series the total number of sketches displayed would be 81.

Sunday April 11th, 2021
Indeed, a lot of people came to the wetland over the weekend. I met two more people who feed the ducks. One lady who didn’t say much and kept feeding them leftovers and a very talkative senior who fed them corn. A lot of friends also came to the wetland although I had not invited anyone because of the quarantine. I just stayed there talking to the passersby. And there were many of them!

Wednesday April 14th, 2021
Today I stayed at the “duckturn” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. More than 30 people came and I talked with most of them. All sketches had been removed, so I placed the fourth series on the fence (27 more). There was a guy walking with his son who told me that the municipal authorities should feed the ducks and this should not be done by volunteers. “Why do you think the municipal authorities should feed the ducks?” I asked him. His response astonished me: “Because they are beautiful!”

Sunday April 18th, 2021
It's Sunday. The day on which many locals go for a walk or on a bicycle ride. Today I will place the fifth series of sketches on the fence. This would probably be the last one, we’ll see. In the meantime, the installation is living a digital life as well. Online posts with photos of the installation are getting more by the day. I selected two of those posts. One by Manolis Menegakis and one by Giorgos Makrakis. Both of them are lawyers and good friends of mine (I hope I won’t need their services though!). On their facebook profiles they shared photos and a small text:
M. MENEGAKIS: Ducks: Small-scale (10X5cm) sketches by my friend Angelos Spartalis that have been placed on the fence of Almyros wetland in Agios Nikolaos Crete available to anyone (raising awareness on the problem of the ducks that stray onto the road by the wetland).
G. MARKAKIS: Duckturn babyyyyy!!!... In Almyros wetland… An art intervention by Angelos Spartalis urging us to protect the ducks who have got bolder because of the quarantine and stray onto the road. Nowadays, due to the pandemic, there are only a handful of people who pass from the wetland. We might as well protect the ducks… Make a brief stop and admire Angelos’ artwork and if you get lucky you might take with you a sketch painted by him.

Wednesday April 21st, 2021
This morning a very strange road sign appeared by the wetland, just before the “duckturn”. I quote Theofilos Tramboulis: “Ducks crossing… The artwork by Angelos Spartalis “Attention, Ducks” which inaugurates this year’s edition of the public art festival The Spirit of the Stairs has taken a surprise twist. A road sign has appeared in the area showing ducklings crossing the road like school kids. Initially, Spartalis’ artwork was his response to a makeshift sign that reads “Attention, Ducks” and is related to the increasing number of ducks that live in Almyros wetland and are being run over by cars. It seems that Spartalis’ artwork has served as an inspiration to an unknown artist to create this road sign that most drivers tend to overlook only to realise what they have actually seen a few moments later. We hope this succession of road signs and ducks continues.

Monday April 26th, 2021
The image of the strange road sign that was placed on the “duckturn” by an unknown artist has started its own digital life. It was initially shared on the Facebook page of the Spirit of the Stairs and then on numerous profiles and websites. There has been numerous and different reactions on the issue. However, all of them help renew the focus on the current state and the future of Almyros wetland. Some see extraterrestrials on the road sign rather than ducks. A bolder friend of mine, Pavlos Papadopoulos, suggested that the road sign portrays people wearing long masks as protection against the current pandemic and that this image reminds us of the beaked masks that doctors used to wear while treating the plague back in the 17th century. Nowadays, similar masks are seen during the Venice carnival!

Thursday April 29th, 2021
Finally‼ Our installation has become an international sensation! My good friend Maria Blazogiannaki sent me a photo of one of my sketches from Grand Place square in Brussels. She had asked her cousins here in Agios Nikolaos to send her one of my sketches to Belgium. We are exporting art, philosophy and politics to Europe, hurray‼ Meanwhile, we are gradually entering the tourism industry: Another good friend of mine, Marianthi Menegaki, posted an announcement on the webpage of her beautiful “handmade” apartments urging her clients to visit the installation. Other than that, life goes on… In the afternoon I walked to the “duckturn” with my younger daughter Dimitroula and my niece Maria Anagnostou and we placed the sixth series of sketches on the fence (27 more).

 

 

 

 

THE 7 STILLS FROM THE MOVIE 192 NAUSIKAA THAT HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE INSTALLATION



 

 

 

 

PART FROM THE FILM 192 NAUSIKAA