Earlier this year, the British artist Michael Landy was dining outside at a restaurant in the Athens neighbourhood of Exarcheia – where the streets, home to anarchists, are thick with graffiti – when he was tear-gassed. “One moment, I was enjoying some vegetarian food,” he recalls. “The next, there were all these guys with masks and wheelie bins, and a riot was taking place. It came out of nowhere.”
Concerned and confused, Landy and his companions jumped up and tried to flee; in their haste, they forgot to settle the bill. “But the streets were barricaded,” he continues, “and then the police started tear-gassing everybody. I couldn’t see anything for five minutes. Tear gas affects your throat as well: you find it hard to breathe.”
It sounds frightening – yet, when we speak by phone, Landy is at an airport, waiting to board a flight back to the city. He laughs. “Yeah, Athens is slightly lawless. But that’s one of the nicest things about it. It’s a really exciting place.”
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