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Stegi Vitsentzos Kornaros has the honour of hosting in its website the artistic team of students “Typotropion” of the Department of Graphic Arts and Visual Communication, West Attica University, presenting their educational project “Renaissance Typography meets Cretan Literature through Street Art”.
The goal of this page is to introduce the “Typotropion” team, to present the historical framework, the aims, the activities, and the results of the educational program in Crete, as well as to inspire other street artists to participate or start their own attempts. Dr Georgios D. Matthiopoulos, creative director of the endeavour, provided Stegi V.Κ. with the following visual material and information. Furthermore, Stegi V.K. stores a digital folder of various Erotokritos couplets typeset with the Grecs du roi font, and a guide of how to use the stencil letters, which can be sent to any school or student group willing to start their own project, communicating with Stegi V.K. by phone or e-mail.
“Typotropion” was formed in October 2016 as an art team of students of the Department of Graphic Arts and Visual Communication, West Attica University, supervised by Dr Georgios D. Matthiopoulos and coordinated by Olga Bitsaki, Project Director. The main target of the team was to produce an educational project in Crete, including artistic actions, on the subject of the Early Cretan Literature. The project involved a large number of high school teachers and students from all over Crete under the supervision of Stelios Zervakis (Head of Secondary Education Office, Chania), Areti Marmataki (Head of Secondary Education School Activities Office, Chania), Filitsa Pediaditi (Head of Secondary Education School Activities Office, Lassithi) and Elia Koumi (Director of the Yannis & Eleni Garedakis Museum of Typography, Chania).
In the black and white photograph, the following members of the “Typotropion” team can be seen (from top left): Vissarion Kyriakidis, Yannis Katsimbras, Georgios Matthiopoulos, Christos Vassakakis, Georgios Frantzeskakis, Anna Paliatsea, Olga Bitsaki, Nicoleta Tourlouki, Maira Bizimi, Eugenia Vrentzou, Katerina Stathaki, Theophano Katomoniati, Dimitra Markaki, Alexandra Passadaki, Alexander von Eickstedt, Nicolia Grigoraki, Katerina Topi. Other participants: Lydia Angelou, Maro Vlazaki, Eleni Kaparaki, Konstandina Katsandoni, Irini Katsaraki, Thanassis Katsouiannis, Mary Koutendaki, Michalis Liolios, Effie Nicolakaki, Vassilis Sourmelis, Yannis Stavianoudakis.
Typography was the invention that changed the socio-political direction of Europe. In the 15th century, the rediscovery of the intellectual wealth bequeathed by the Ancient Greek and Roman civilization became the main source of knowledge. Aldus Manutius founded the largest publishing house in Venice and with the assistance of a devoted team of philologists, mostly Cretans, he produced the first printed editions of the entire Classic Greek Literature. His decision to use Greek types following the handwriting of his contemporary Greek scholars, i.e. the miniscule Byzantine tradition, quickly established this practice in all printing houses of Europe.
When, in the mid-16th century, the Imprimerie Royal in Paris decided to publish a new edition of the Classics, the Cretan scholar and illustrious calligrapher Angelo Vergecio was called upon to collaborate with the punch-cutter Claude Garamont for a new Greek typeface, known since as Grecs du roi. The unparalleled design quality of the Byzantine cursive writing of the calligrapher, rich in ligatures and abbreviations, was skillfully captured by the engraver, making such a great impression that it remained as the model of Greek fonts for two centuries throughout Europe, until the period of the Enlightenment.
During the period when Greece was under the Ottoman rule, Crete, as an important possession of Venice, developed quickly economically and was influenced by the Italian Renaissance through the constant contact of its many port cities with the metropolis. From the end of the 16th to the middle of the 17th century, at the height of European Humanism, Cretan culture flourished, creating important works of art, mainly in the fields of theatre, literature and iconography.
Two major literature works were produced, Erotokritos by Vitsentzos Kornaros and Erofili by Georgios Chortatsis, which had a profound influence on the development of modern Greek Literature. Folk works influenced by the chivalric romance of Europe, became the main poetic medium for Cretans and it has remained popular to this day. Later on, these literary works became the model for theatrical works created in the Ionian and the Aegean islands. As for the Cretan spoken idiom, it had a defining influence on major Greek poets of the 19th and the 20th century, such as Dionysios Solomos, Kostis Palamas and Angelos Sikelianos.
Street Art is an internationally recognized form of visual art expression and communication, favoured by artists who work in public or private spaces that offer visual access to a wider audience. It is performed with a wide variety of materials and techniques.
Graffiti has also been introduced into the Greek urban environment. A growing part of the youth culture is engaged in this activity, to a large extent uncritically by imitating lettering styles and choices of Anglo-Saxon practices (Gothic script, etc.), but ignoring the remarkable heritage of Byzantine calligraphy as a source of inspiration.
By studying the theatre plays of the Cretan writers Vitsentzos Kornaros and Georgios Chortatsis as the founding works of modern Greek Literature and the culmination of the evolving process of the post-Byzantine writing into type forms, "Typotropion" has attempted to artistically blend them with Street Art, an expressive contemporary medium, thus paying tribute to the remarkable artistry of the Cretan calligrapher Angelo Vergecio and to the engraving genius of the punch-cutter Claude Garamont.
The students of “Typotropion” stenciled couplets from Erotokritos and Erofili using the Grecs du roi typeface in carefully selected public and private locations in Crete, aspiring to invigorate the connection of the younger generations with the rich content and poetic language of their ancestors, while activating the memories of older folk. At the same time, co-operating with Technical and General Lyceums in Crete, under the guidance of volunteering teachers, "Typotropion" initiated a vital dialogue with Secondary Education communities, helping in the assimilation of Greek history and artistic expression by way of alternative channels of communication.
The principal goal of “Typotropion” is to expand the interests of young people so that they get acquainted to different ways of expressing themselves through writing in a creative way, and at the same time to actively learn more about the unparalleled works of Cretan Literature, with the help of Street Art. “Typotropion” attempts to reach young Greeks who are inspired from the contemporary international artistic experimentation and make them aware why they should learn how to incorporate the cultural treasures of their past, thus blending the timeless achievements of the Hellenic culture with the present.
The Regional Cultural Network “Renaissance Typography meets Cretan Literature through Street Art” was created and approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Regional Directorate of Education of Crete. The participating Technical and General Lyceums in Crete formed voluntary work groups, canvassed for suitable places in urban areas and, with the permission of the owners of the buildings or the local authorities, carried out the artistic activity. The “Typotropion” student coordinating team produced the couplets (pdf files) to be cut and stenciled on the selected walls. Many groups organized additional artistic activities within schools, based on Cretan Literature, such as songs, theatrical plays, etc.
In order to communicate the project and highlight its presence in the cities of Crete, small events were organized in central places, where students made up stenciled couplets on cards and distributed them to passers-by. Additionally, national and local media played an important role in the dissemination of the project; “Typotropion” team members gave radio and television interviews, the artists and the students were filmed in action, and a number of articles were published in the Press.
Over the course of two years, a creative group of teachers and students worked together successfully, harvesting the diversity of personalities and skills of the participants. The student members of the team learned how to function well together, to communicate with organizations, municipal authorities as well as individuals, and to expand their knowledge in various fields. They realized the value of being well-organized, using time efficiently in order to achieve common goals, and many discovered new interests and emerging creative talents along the way.
Throughout this beautiful journey, the warm response of the Cretans, who embraced the effort and even sang parts from Erotokritos and Erofili when seeing the teams of students and teachers in action, proved to be a great encouragement.
The activity can be integrated into the study program of any teacher who wishes to bring his or her students into contact with Greek Literature and art, as a lab activity to be held on school premises or in public areas, with the agreement of the Municipality or the owners of the selected buildings. To this end, designs from various Erotokritos couplets and a short guide on how to produce the stencil letters are provided. Of course, choosing to have a different approach or improvising during the execution of the activity is possible, depending on circumstances. The aim for participating groups is to create an enjoyable educational environment which promotes the knowledge of history and highlights the quality of the first modern Greek works of literature, as well as the contribution of the printed word to the wider culture.