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A conversation between John Patelias and Nikos Kalligas at Reworks 2018

in collaboration with We are Europe

For the fifth episode of “New Activists of European Culture”, we traveled to Thessaloniki in Greece during Reworks festival and got the opportunity to meet John Patelias and Nikos Kalligas. An urban planner and civil engineer and a street artist got together to discuss public space’s rehabilitation in Thessaloniki and the role of street art as a form of activism.

A conversation between John Patelias and Nikos Kalligas


We took a flight to Greece with the purpose of finding out new stories about activism in the city of Thessaloniki. When we arrived, we found out that the claim of open space is the most important form of activism in the city. The city has a lot of empty and abandoned spaces in consequence of the crisis. Communities come together and take over these unused spaces for public use.

Reworks itself ends up being a form of space occupation and activism. The festival reappropriated abandoned spaces, as the Thessaloniki Concert Hall for the Agora Forum or the industrial complex of FIX for the music festival. In a way, the reappropriation of these spaces is a form of social activism and all of it helps in improving life in Thessaloniki.

John and Nikos, both Thessaloniki natives, care about the city, and both are activists in their own way. As Nikos told us, citizens are worried about the city and want to make Thessaloniki a resilient city again. Nikos says that if there’s a problem and the city needs a change, it is the people who have to solve it. He truly believes a city is its people.


We had the opportunity to walk on the streets of this city and appreciate John’s art in many walls and buildings. Patelias tells stories and sends messages through his art in the walls of Thessaloniki. Nikos, on the other hand, gave us a tour into the pocket park he and a group of his neighbours are constructing next to Svolou street. On our way there, we walked past the street where every year they organize the Spring Dinner (a dinner with the whole neighborhood in the middle of the street). The idea of these projects is to turn their neighborhood into a livelier district through a series of community activities and local participation. In the fifth episode of this "New Activists of European Culture" series John and Nikos talk about local activism, through the form of space occupation and reappropriation.

Cultural activism in the real space and time is something very new for the city.

- Nikos Kalligas


Nikos Kalligas

Nikos Kalligas is an urban planner and a civil engineer. He studied Urban Planning at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and continued his studies as a Civil Engineer. Nikos has always been interested in participating actively in the life of his city and concerned about what was happening around him. Together with equally concerned citizens, he is part of the Initiative of Al. Svolos Neighborhood. This community worries about alternative ways to upgrade the city and for that organizes activities and events to increase democratic participation and the sense of belonging such as The Dinner of the Spring, and they’re also building the first pocket park in Greece in their city, Thessaloniki.

John Patelias

John Patelias is an urban illustrator from Thessaloniki. John studied comics and worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for many greek brands. Nowadays, he uses paint, pencils, markers and paint brushes as tools to turn empty walls into something with a message. His work is inspired by science fiction, surrealism and pop culture and known by his bright colours and a characteristic clean detailing. Patelias usually participates in art festivals such as Street Art Festival Thessaloniki, Street Mode Festival or Influence festival, and also paints in group or assisting other artists. Besides from Thessaloniki, Patelias' art can be spotted in other cities of Greece and even other countries, like the mural he helped Argiris Ser paint at Village Underground in London for the Education Is Not a Crime campaign.

A painted wall is the most fast message that you can send to someone and it goes directly. Whatever message you paint in a wall, the message will find a receiver.

- John Patelias


“New Activists of European Culture” is a series by Canal180 that focuses on conversations between activists from Europe. It was born from a partnership with We are Europe which promotes, creates and produces 8 major European events. Their goal is to develop a prospective vision of electronic culture, technology and entrepreneurship, while contributing to new social and political developments through an interdisciplinary approach.


The sixth episode of New Activists of European Culture, Notes from the Underground, takes place in The Hague, Netherlands during TodaysArt Festival. A conversation about night life and its possibilities between Ella Overkleeft and Sama Abdulhadi.
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The seventh episode of New Activists of European Culture, Northern Light, takes place in Tromsø, Norway during Insomnia Festival. A conversation about modern nomadism and identity between Aslak Holmberg and Srećko Horvat.
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The first episode has Elevate Festival (Graz, Austria) as background. Vasilis Tsartsanis and Ben Frost shared their life experiences in a snowy environment.
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Resistance, the second episode of New Activists of European Culture, takes place in Lyon, France during Nuits Sonores. A conversation between Máret Ánne Sara and Angnieszka Wisniewska.
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The third episode of New Activists of European Culture, Invisible Borders, focuses on a conversation between Mohamed Jabaly and Alistair Alexander. Recorded in Barcelona, Spain during Sónar.
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The fourth episode of New Activists of European Culture, Politics of Dancing, takes place in Cologne, Germany during co/pop. A conversation about clubbing and activism between Matthew Collin and Katarina Serulus.
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