By Zoe Christodoulides
IF YOU happen to be a regular user of Facebook, then it’s more than likely that you’ve come across pictures of friends, acquaintances or well known local personalities holding up a sign that boldly reads: ‘I Am The Economy’.
This is no random fad. The images are all part of an attempt to break a world record in the midst of the current economic crisis as public consciousness is stirred and people are urged to take control of their own future.
An initiative kick-started by Constantinos Arkadiou – a 28-year-old copywriter – the project now being coordinated in collaboration with the Kafene non-profit organisation aims to create the world’s largest photo collage recognised by the Guinness World Records.
In order to break the record, the final piece is to measure 10,000 square metres, and Constantinos is determined to collect a whopping 30,000 pictures. And as more and more people hold up the stark sign before the lens, it marks an attempt to spread the word that the future of the Cypriot economy lies in all of our hands; from graduates and young professionals to artists, builders, butchers, designers and bankers. Some pose in their workspaces, others smile for the camera in the comfort of their own homes, still others pose while sitting back at their favourite cafe.
The idea of the biggest collage in the world is one that came to mind following last year’s traumatic bailout.
“Like so many of us, I was rather numb after that experience,” recalls Constantinos. “I felt that it is in our hands to do something to create change. It’s about the individual taking action to help themselves and then everyone coming together as a collective whole.”
Acting as a reminder that change can come from a grass roots level rather than simply left in the hands of the government or big corporations, Constantinos intends the whole endeavour to become a global phenomenon with resonance with people across the world, particularly in countries that are also suffering from a bad economic climate.
The initiative sprung into action before Christmas, starting with a pop-up shop down Makarios Avenue in Nicosia where Constantinos began snapping away at people who wished to take a picture of themselves with the sign, along with family and friends who first supported the cause.
Having teamed up with the Kafene non-profit organisation for the ‘I Am The Economy’ endeavour, the group is intent on helping on a wider scale, beyond this photographic project, by giving young professionals insight and direction when it comes to set up their own business, making investments, and generally encouraging locals to get the ball rolling in hard and trying times.
“My aim is not just to break the world record but for the message to really be a strong one, to make people think about how they can help bring about change, with each and every one of us playing a role in the wider picture,” says Constantinos. Once all pictures have been collected, the aim is for them to be printed and laid out in a prominent public space in the capital.
“I’ve been in contact with the NicosiaMunicipality and they are happy to collaborate. My idea is to cover part of the Venetian Walls, but whether that can actually be done remains to be seen. I am hopeful,” he says.
With close to 1000 pictures collected so far, the reaction from the general public has been a positive one, with people now sending pictures through on their own accord via the ‘I Am The Economy’ Facebook page, website and Twitter. “Most people feel that the sign represents them and they hold it proudly,” says Constantinos. “They might be a bit shy at first but they become more confident in front of the camera when they know they are having their picture taken for a cause they believe in.”
As the anniversary of last year’s bailout approaches, Constantinos and the Kafene group are busy organising an exhibition at the P.X .creative space in Nicosia between March 15 and 17 where members of the public will have the chance to catch a glimpse of the work of professional local photographers supporting ‘I Am The Economy’.
Exhibits aside, Constantinos urges everyone to do their bit by taking a picture of themselves with the sign, which can be downloaded and printed from the website.
“This is a serious message and we can all be part of it. This is about you taking a stance in front of the camera.”
Those that wish to take part in ‘I Am The Economy’ can download the I Am The Economy sign from www.iamtheeconomy.net, and the resulting pictures can be shared on the ‘I Am The Economy’ facebook page, twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #iamtheeconomy.