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Documenta Artists Protest ‘Fascist Mindset’ Behind Murder of LGBTQ Performer in Athens

An open letter to Greek authorities said that the killing of Zak Kostopoulos ‘bears strong resemblance to lynching’

Zak Kostopoulos. Courtesy: Facebook

Zak Kostopoulos. Courtesy: Facebook

Zak Kostopoulos in costume. Courtesy: Facebook

More than 140 artists and participants in last year’s documenta 14 exhibition have issued an open letter to Greek authorities, condemning the murder of LGBTQ activist and drag performer Zak Kostopoulos, who was beaten to death in Athens on 21 September. The letters were addressed to Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis and prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

The letter states: ‘The public killing of Zak Kostopoulos bears strong resemblance to lyching.’ Referencing Foucault’s edict that ‘society must be defended’, the artists call for Greek leaders ‘to take an unequivocal position against violence’ in what they regard as an increasingly inhospitable environment for minorities, with an ‘increasing number of cases of violence targeting minorities and underprivileged members of society in Greece.’

According to news reports, the savage assault on Kostopoulos was filmed, with footage showing him being kicked in the head while trying to break out of a locked jewellery shop. He died from his injuries while on the way to hospital. Kostopoulos was well known for his activism on behalf of the HIV-positive community, as well as his drag performances under the name ‘Zackie Oh’.

With regard to the killing of Kostopoulos, the letter writers say ‘it is crucial to understand and expose the larger fascist mindset that propels such incidents and renders them as socially acceptable acts of retribution.’ Signatories include documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk and former CEO Annette Kulenkampff alongside artists Maria Hassabi, Hiwa K, Naeem Mohaiemen, Rosalind Nashashibi and Vivian Suter.

The participants of last year’s edition of the quinquennial exhibition – which took place in both Athens and Kassel – have been prolific letter-writers over the past 12 months, publicly protesting allegations of financial misconduct at documenta 14 (arguing that critics were ‘shaming through debt’), and instances of right-wing violence in Greece. Don’t miss Ellen Mara De Wachter writing for us on the history of the open letter, and how the changes today’s writers seek ‘are still a long way from being assured.’

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