Menelas Siafakas is not just a poet, a photographer or an existential detective. He is a pornographer, a queer “anxious mess” and a “weirdo” who also feels so normal. Menelas is a huge art creator and is giving life to the legendary queer arts and art-porn film festivals in Athens. Not to mention that he gives life to us too!
Menelas comes to YASS and here is everything you need to know about him.
How is Menelas Siafakas?
I’ll ask him when I see him! But, more seriously, this has been a tough year.
How do you describe yourself and how do you identify?
I describe myself as Menelas. I identify as a gay cis man (old school). My preferred pronouns are he/him/his. My lawyers insist that I can’t use ‘your serene highness’ for some reason.
Does your business card still say “Menelas – Poet. Pornographer. Existential Detective”? And do you still appear wearing just a full-face mask?
I am so glad you think that’s me on the card! But, yes that’s still my business card! It used to say: poet, photographer, existential detective, but after being invited to the legendary Berlin Porn Film Festival, I changed it to pornographer. It has more of an edge this way.
What else is Menelas?
I am so many things: I am an anxious mess. I am a weirdo. I am a walking contradiction. I am an extroverted misanthrope.
You are working on so many things, that it is difficult to find where to start.
The question: ‘What do you do?’ always kills me. My actual work is not art. I studied Sport Science and now I work as an administrator and occasional Sport Psychologist at a martial arts club in Athens. My art is really a hobby, a passion. Apart from creating art, I am working on a queer arts festival and an art-porn film festival in Athens.
How is the LGBTQ+ scene in Greece where you live and work? How has it evolved over the last years? What does it feel to be a LGBTQ+ I Athens?
The LGBTQ+ scene in Athens is always evolving, while we are still quite far behind, our safe little bubbles are expanding always. I’ve seen a real difference in my decade here and I hope I have contributed a tiny little bit to that.
You spent several years living in Scotland. How were those years?
I arrived in Glasgow a 19-year-old sheltered middle class boy. Glasgow was a crash course in reality. But, away from the influence of my family I was able to become an adult on my own terms. I found myself, my sexuality, love, poetry, a good job lecturing. But after 16 years, it was time for me to return home to Athens. But Glasgow will always be home to me.
Have you faced homophobia and discrimination in your life? What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ people who struggle with the pressure they receive from society?
I have been very fortunate/privileged to have experienced very little homophobia and discrimination. My advice to LGBTQ+ people is to find your tribe and get yourself some power. Good friends, a supportive network, and self-knowledge. The ancient Greeks said: know thyself. Having a good understanding of who we are means we are less susceptible to outside pressures. Also, let’s not forget that there are financial aspects that affect the issue.
Was the adaptation difficult when you returned to Greece?
It was fucking hard! I was moaning for a whole year. But at this very same year, every morning, I was smiling gratefully for the good weather. I came back in 2009 when the financial crisis exploded in Greece. Two of my jobs become redundant within 4 years. But, at the same time this gave me more time for my artistic projects.
You are the founder and curator of the annual queer arts festival Civil Disobedience. How did you come up with this project?
I was working on a gaywebtv project and we were asked to contribute to a Rainbow Week in Athens. And my suggestion was immediately was a photography exhibition. As I felt that the situation in Greece was lagging for LGBT rights, I gave a revolutionary tone to the exhibition.
“In a society that wants us to be normal, being ourselves is an act of civil disobedience” is the exhibition motto. The exhibition over the years has grown to a mini-festival. https://civildisobedience.gr/
Talk to me about Symposium.
“Symposium: an athenian rawmance” is considered Greece’s first art-gay porn film. It’s actually the second, but, the only one available to buy online. After having participated in Berlin Porn Film Festival with a soft-porn, I want to film something hard, and I was fortunate enough to do so. The film is a very Greek summer experience with sex on the beach and discussions about philosophy. https://pinklabel.tv/on-demand/film/symposium-an-athenian-rawmance
You are considered by many people an LGBTQ+ activist. Do you feel like that too?
I don’t think about being an activist. I just do what I feel needs to be done and what I can. So, I don’t feel like an activist, but I accept that in my own artistic way I am.
What is the role of art porn in your life and how did you decide to engage with it professionally?
Well, I consider myself an amateur pornographer, as in it’s not a real income source. You know amateur means lover and in Greek we have this beautiful word for it which is ερασιτέχνης which means lover of art. I think that describes me best.
Growing up, in the pre-internet era, gay pornography for me was a floatation device. It was the only place with happy depictions of homosexuality. The shift towards art-porn came with watching “The Raspberry Reich” by Bruce LaBruce and then ten years later coming to contact with the world of porn film festivals, funnily enough, this happened with my homage short film: “The Raspberry Reich GR”. Porn film festivals are a safe space for exploration of sexuality and our relation to porn. Issues of feminist approaches, the LGBT experience, kinky sex, consent and ethical production and consumption of porn are all examined. So, I wanted to bring that to Athens and last year did the first edition of Satyrs and Maenad: the Athens Porn Film festival, which had to be online due to the pandemic. https://athenspff.com/
What are the most important moments of your career?
Let me declare my dislike of the word career but I am proud of: Surviving in a homophobic world. A decade of the Civil Disobedience festival. Running, the Athens Queer Theatre Awards with my pal, Manolis Vamvounis for 8 years. Successfully convicting a bishop of the Greek church for homophobic speech along with another 8 citizens. Starting the Athens Porn Film Festival.
Who are your muses and who are the people who you admire and inspire you?
The holy trinity: Lynch, Haneke and Trier. Alanis Morissette, the situationist movement, Bruce LaBruce, Marina (and the Diamonds), surrealism and British comedy.
What makes you scream YASS?
Eleni Foureira (check her out) and small defeats of the Patriarchy.
What turns you on and what can put you off?
French boys with floppy hair reading existential philosophy turn me on. And I am put off by sandals with socks.
What are your future plans?
First to go on holiday to the islands. Then film my next art-porn film. And then continue with my festivals.
*all images are courtesy of Menelas