Kathryn Politis & Sabine Reitmaier

‘Pretty Good Privacy’

02.07.2016 - 20.00 hs.

Mavromatteon 11, Athens, Greece.

Pretty Good Privacy is an exhibition based on Kaliarda, a secret argot spoken primarily by male sex workers during Greece’s military dictatorship of the 1970’s. Similar to the data encryption program ‘Pretty Good Privacy' created by Phil Zimmerman in 1991, Kaliarda was a process of encoding messages, such that only authorised parties could decipher and communicate their meaning. Whereas advanced encryption uses algorithms and computational power, Kaliarda is analogue.

As a long-time anti-nuclear activist, Zimmerman created PGP encryption so that similarly inclined people might securely store and exchange information. No license was required for it’s non-commercial use, and the complete source code was included with all copies. Kaliarda was a “working man’s slang”, enabling a space for people to interact safely while reinforcing a common identity. It was an expressive language, incorporating hand gestures, vocal intonation, exaggerated and dramatic in it’s use of alliteration and onomatopoeia. Taking words from Latin, French, and Turkish, it’s etymology is mixed. Kaliarda consists of puns, dual meanings, and expressions both aggressive and cynical. The verb “kaliardevo” means “to bitch”.

It wasn’t until 1971 that a glossary of Kaliarda was documented by Ilias Petropoulos. A self-described “urban anthropologist”, Petropoulos had published accounts of the Greek condition in the form of histories of various objects: from condoms to windows, omelettes to chairs. His book on Kaliarda was his most notorious work, outing the code of Kaliarda and therefore putting it’s speakers at risk, while meticulously preserving and affirming the community that spoke it. Petropoulos was eventually jailed for attempting to publish his book on Kaliarda in 1971, finally printing it himself in an unknown quantity. The book’s critical reception was weak, few people willing to review it, let alone sell it. The book is now in it’s fifth edition, but is not easy to find even today.

With the launch of Pretty Good Privacy, 100 free digital copies of Kaliarda will be available at Jetztzeit. A special edition will be on offer during the launch and after. Lavender cocktails will be served.