It’s been a long time now since we’ve first heard rumors about the existence of The Ikarus, an artist commune up the mountains of Crete where artists gathered to create and share art while enjoying the serenity of the Cretan landscape. First it sounded like an urban legend; later we found the facebook page of The Ikarus Artist Commune as the first tangible evidence of its existence, and finally this summer we had the chance to visit it and see it for ourselves.
As we found out, The Ikarus has had many open-to-the-public events including two international rock music festivals, the first one being in 2008 and the last one in 2010. The Ikarus opened its doors to the public again on Friday July 22 after fourteen years of existence and this time we were there! The program of the evening was diverse and very different from what we are used to, almost out of place and time, so sometimes we were wondering whether we are still in Avdou or we have fallen into the “rabbit hole” and we were transferred to a parallel universe.
That night, the garden of The Ikarus hosted an exclusive photo exhibit by Bob Gruen (legendary rock photographer of John Lennon, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Blondie, Clash, Led Zepellin, etc), the first exhibit in Greece of artwork by the world-renowned Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen and a painting exhibit by Barb Wire Dolls singer Isis Queen. The music program started with a short performance by Barb Wire Dolls (Greece's biggest rock export) and continued with a unique music night with the participation of Cretan musicians including Antonis Fragakis and his friends Michalis and Damianos, the famed opera singer Anna Trocchia and members of Barb Wire Dolls, until it concluded with a dub reggae DJ set by some of the local CST surfers of the island. The result was absolutely magical and we can only hope we will experience more nights like this one in the future!
Pyn Doll, member of Barb Wire Dolls and one of the founders of The Ikarus tells us more about this amazing place…
When and how did The Ikarus artist commune start? Which was its vision & course in time?
The Ikarus was created by me and Matt "Arkuda" Wessen (a professional surfer and film producer from Los Angeles) to give artists of all types a sanctuary to create and not "worry" about time and money. We believed in the beginning that if an artist comes and does not have to concern themselves with time or money, that their truest creations could be expressed. We have paid for many artists to come live at the commune under these pretenses and much success has been achieved in our opinion.
Your personal course in The Ikarus (and elsewhere)…
My family had a few run down old houses in the village of Avdou and when I told Matt about it, he put in the money to have them fixed up and liveable. I organized the two rock festivals and was the "boss" for a while. I ran the commune for years but since the band I play guitar in, Barb Wire Dolls, has taken off around the world, I've had no real time to dedicate myself to helping out, other than taking care of some of the artists that are there when I am also living there.
Which other artists started or passed by The Ikarus? What other events have been hosted here?
We've had two photo exhibits while Bob Gruen was here, two rock festivals, and members of famous bands have come too, like Grouplove (who all met here), Flogging Molly, Dead Kennedy's singer Jello Biafra, My Morning Jacket, and many lesser-known musicians. Mostly we have had painters, novelists, and Hollywood directors though we do get the occasional sculptor or poet.
How would you describe your relationship to the island of Crete? Can you trace influences and inspirations from local culture and other local artists?
My mother is Cretan and my father is from the Vergina area, and I have lived most of my life in Crete though I lived in Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, United States, and Germany too. My love for the island and its people is in everything that I do. The Minoan art that we have discovered is by far the most majestic art this world has ever seen, and I am so very intrigued about knowing more about their artistic creations and culture as it shaped the whole world in many ways most people do not know about. It's all about the Minoans and discovering ways to create artistic energy for the world to connect to and become more light, for if we do not have enough artistic light entering the world of today, we shall be doomed.
What do you love most about the island?
That I have travelled it for years from corner to corner and I still am discovering new places that blow my mind away. It really is the most magical island in the world, and trust me, I have been around the world over twenty times and seen a lot. Crete is heaven on earth if you can connect to her pure energy.
Any plans for the future? Will The Ikarus open its wings to other endeavors?
We have another rock festival planned for 2017 in August in Avdou with some big names.