Concept + Assemblage + Directing: Elli Papakonstantinou
Performers: Giannis Voulgarakis, Valia Papachristou, Adrian Frieling, Evelina Arapidi, Pauline Huguet, Lambros Pigounis, Dimitris Kainos, Tilemachos Moussas, Larissa Vergou, Nikolas Stravopodis, and many volunteers
Added to the second cast: Elektra Tsakalia, Lazaros Vartanis, Vangelis Alexandris, and many volunteers
Musical improvisation: Lambros Pigounis (violin, live electronics), Tilemachos Moussas (theremin), Georgia Sylleou (vocals)
Later additions included: Panos Tsekouras (theremin), Anastasia Eden (vocals)
Dramaturgy: Dimitris Babilis
Music + Multichannel sound installation: Lambros Pigounis
Choreography: Pauline Huguet
Visual artists: Mary Zygouri, Aristotelis Karananos, Alexandra Siafkou
Lighting design: Adrian Frieling
Assistant director: Aspa Siokou
Stage management: Katerina Pappa
Produced by ODC Ensemble
GREECE / Athens / Vyrsodepseio / July & September-December 2011
IRAQ / Erbil / Hawler First International Theater Festival / September 2011
CZECH REPUBLIC / Prague / presented at the 13th International Exhibition Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space at the Hellenic pavilion / May 2015
“META” is a hybrid site-specific performance that emerged through the creation of a network society, through an open dialogue on the role of art today and the need for parallel clusters around a common feeling: something is breaking in our society, something is getting irretrievably lost: “Let’s celebrate!” The performance deals with notions of the “end” – the relation of people to society in a moment of disaster/crisis, the end of the Big Narratives and the period after. In “META”, the simple everyday communication (through the text of the actors) runs in parallel with texts of: Makriyannis, St. John, Aristotle, Plato, Rosa Luxembourg, Roger Dadoun, Fernando Pessoa, Ernesto Sabatto, Pierre Paolo Pasolini, Thierry Paquot, Witold Gombrowicz, William Burroughs, Karl Marx, etc.
The performance was created with the contribution and participation of more than 50 citizens, activists, artists.
And “After” what? The feast of our disaster
[…] Words, music, dance, improvisation, cinema, visual arts, philosophy, poetry, politics, satire: the ingredients of this explosive, anarchic production […]. An anguished celebration of catastrophe is at the heart of this performance. After all, this is the very premise of Vyrsodepseio: the catastrophe of a world leaving its mark on the post-apocalyptic world that succeeded it. Nothing is to be taken for granted, […] nothing is to rest on theatrical conventions. Indeed, rarely does it happen that theatre is able to lose itself, voluntarily ‘de-theatricalise’ itself, interact with other arts and engage in open dialogue with the audience and its time. […]
META, a disaster performance
Ιn an abandoned factory – the most important tannery of the Balkans in the 19th century – ODC plays the end of the world five times a week for two months. The spectators are lead across this impressive building, haunted by the memory of its workers, before witnessing how an artistic project is cut short.
META has been created in and for this unique site, over three months of research, improvisation and editing. The atmosphere of the space as well as the political events that are shaking Greece and the European Union deeply impregnate the piece. If some economical questions are tackled, some issues are not left aside such as the loss of meaning and the feeling of belonging to a deceptive world for which everyone is asked to suffer a bit, to pay in one way or another and to think, should we want to save it. Alongside the cast of famous actors, there is a group of extras who stand for, and actually are, their Athenian co-citizens.
In the foyer, two hostesses look after the spectators, smiling and dancing their way among them, first sensually and then epileptically. Standing behind the mic, Elektra Tsakalia disseminates meta-words: metamorphosis, metabolism, meta-language, metaphysics, Metallica! – this litany of metas opens the piece that questions the notion of after: what will come after the destruction, after the crisis and after the end of the world? An alarm rings, the girls are having a fit in the cage where they have just been locked, the audience are rushed outside.
There, on a concrete ramp, comes the time for a speech about phantasmagoria, this fascination for illusions which had an unfathomable success in the late 18th century. It is literally the art of making ghosts speak, therefore the art of making images speak and of moving what remains still. The audience is then lead inside the basement of the building and a big metallic gate shuts behind them. Under a very dim light or revealed by a torch beam, some corpses are lying on the ground and are meticulously watered. Besides, the sound of water drops fills up the space, for the soundscape is omnipresent and structural from the very beginning of the piece. Herded through a dark corridor, the spectators grope their way between two vitrines behind which some dummies are strangely gathered, past a body preserved in a Plexiglas jar and along a pile of bodies slowly peeling off each other and merging again.
The phantasmagoria then becomes embodied in a fascinating set up: lighting, set, choreography, music, voice. In the midst of concrete columns, with water dripping incessantly from the ceiling, dimly lit; in the midst of reflections in concentric circles; their feet in the dark water that we imagine as cold as ice; three women are dancing accompanied by the voice of a fourth woman, standing by the musicians. With their faces concealed, they come forward and momentarily pause, like the doubles of some Tarkovskian characters. Silence replaces the electronic music and violin, only the water can still be heard. Some helicopter blades start roaring, the dance turns into a tremor leading to a violent explosion and many a fall. For a moment the whole world seems to have disappeared. The sound softens up, escalates towards higher notes and drifts towards a lyrical melody. The women mingle, drag each other and drag themselves toward the upper world, on a slow decrescendo.
When the audience leaves the space with the columns, they notice that the gate has been opened and it is their turn to access the upper world. Several tableaux are now going to succeed each other, like the different takes of a fictive shooting which, unlike Truffaut’s The American Night, shows the miseries rather than the splendors of a film crew. Following the instructions of their director – a role that has been taken over at the end of the first month of the run by the actual director, Elli Papakonstantinou – the actors play one scene after another. Each one has distinct references: religious – The Last Supper, the crucifixion and procession; artistic – the fallen statue of Lenin drifting down the Danube on a barge in Theo Angelopoulos’ Ulysses’ Gaze, and Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa; topical – the image of a terrorist with his jacket lined up with dynamites; political – a table conference and a demonstration; popular – a Greek cover of Abba’s song Money; symbolical – the chimera creatures that bring the piece to an end. The references are the ghosts of this improbable after.
It is hard to describe everything that penetrates the space. There is some humor, some poetry, some anger, some cynicism and some irony. There are some beautiful visual compositions. There are complete yet subtle performers, whose physical and intellectual engagement with the project is obvious at all times, as Valia Papachristou’s outstanding performance shows. There is a sound score that achieves the double challenge of being simultaneously the skeleton and the skin of META. There are tight bodies with the stamina necessary for a 2 hours’ long performance.
Maybe one can regret that at times the play loses itself in wearisome chatting. Maybe one could wish for a project with clearer lines. However the strength of the piece probably relies on this chaotic basis, which is the mirror of a collective writing always in movement and constitutes a solid support, prompting all not to allow themselves to stagnate within a rigid performance.
When the performers are suddenly left alone to their own devices, without any extras, without any director and without any production, their attempt to come closer to the audience simply sums up the project, that never stops questioning itself according to the events of Greek politics, following the ebb and flow of hope. Entrusting composer Lambros Pigounis with the music which functions as the mental and societal structure of the piece, and French choreographer Pauline Huguet from London with the movement, ODC collective take the risk to inscribe themselves in the here and now, with their always growing and razor-sharp piece.
ODC Ensemble was founded by Elli Papakonstantinou and is constituted of actors, dancers, musicians, video and visual artists coming from Great Britain, Greece, France, Germany and elsewhere. Famous for their work on Homer, ODC Ensemble recently staged Viciousness in the Kitchen after Sylvia Plath’s Three Voices.
Marie Juliette Verga
Directing the end of Capitalism
“META” an aesthetic essay on what follows crisis and capitalism, a show that has travelled from the small state of N. Kurdistan to the biggest tannery of the Balkans, at the area of Botanicos.
A postmodern, mixed spectacle for … META (THE AFTERMATH) has been set up in an old tannery. Directed by Elli Papakonstantinou collaborator of Sarah Kane and director at the Royal Court, recently in Cyprus, where she directed for the Cyprus Theatre Organization Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
“Let’s make a change. Let’s replace our politicians with poets”, she suggests. “There is no other way out. People from all fields resist”. A good example is the 25 people involved at “META”.
“Everyone has been involved without a salary, motivated by a spirit of collectiveness. Nothing separates actors from volunteers. It is important for the arts to overcome the notion of “artist”. Let’s talk more about who acts, who resists”, she says passionately.
The theatre group “ODC”, introduced to us through their performance “Viciousness in the kitchen”, entered an adventure with “META” not with the worry of the performance, but “the worry of the citizen”. “That is why volunteers, (dancers, teachers, architects, historians, sociologists,) take part in it and they are all activists. “Why it is important to redefine the role of art”, explains the director.
It all started when “crisis broke with the IMF in Greece” and Elli Papakonstantinou together with her partners decided to meet for two months every day. First, to articulate around the table, “what happens and what is changing.” These meetings slowly began to expand and resulted in open discussions attained by experts, architects, historians, etc.
The resulting material was not used for public activism, as suggested by the director, but for a performance. The site specific “META” incorporates dance, theater, installations, but because of its origin it is based thematically on very solid ground: the end of capitalism, the end of crisis, the end of the natural world, the end of tolerance, while “playing” with strong symbols like Jesus – Jesus is belted with ammunitions!
A challenging trip.
In the second part of the performance, the audience enters a film studio where they watch the shooting of a movie about the end. But after a while, it is announced that the national TV channel, the main producer, is now sold to the Chinese TV and so the shooting ends abruptly. “The actors stand in awkwardness, just like us, the Greek citizens. “I try to express the agony, the awkwardness of the people around me,” says the director, who is an optimist, against the dull surrounding atmosphere. ”Why, I see new movements rising. A performance in the uninhabitable area of Botanicos and this collective spirit would have not taken place earlier” she adds.
The proposal to present “META” at the “International Theatre Festival in Erbil,” did not puzzle Elli Papakonstantinou or volunteers. “We were very interested to present the performance in a war zone, even though the last two years there have been fewer attacks in Baghdad”. As soon as we landed to Erbil, we encountered two worlds, says the director. On the one hand, the luxury, the expensive cars, and the micro world of American officials and German oil companies that have installed a supposedly independent country.
On the other hand, we faced a hopeless world, bombarded houses, it was “like a war movie. Life is hard in Erbil and the Kurds traumatized”. It sounds surreal to organise an international theater festival in such a controversial state, which is officially recognized only by the U.S.A. This was more of a political decision. The Festival was inaugurated by the Prime Minister and teams from Germany, Sweden, France, England, Japan etc. attained.
The public, mostly … male, watched “with reverence and with a great surprise, especially when they saw some nudity or when a man touched a woman on stage”.
What happened with “META”? They loved it. Because “META” deals with notions of destruction and violence that the Kurds have experienced, so they were identified. They were certainly aware of what is happening now in Greece. And they feel solidarity. Otsalan is a forgotten story. At the end of the performance, 500 people waited to congratulate the Greek mission. “It was like a wedding!” Elli Papaconstantinou, remembers.
But Arbil is not over for the director. She has been invited to work with Kurds on a new production in 2012. Already the Kurds volunteers that participated in the “META” were a revelation. “It is only then, that I got a grasp of the political situation in Irak,” reveals Elli Papakonstantinou. “When I asked them to throw during a performed demonstration scene petitions in the air, they all told me that the police has a file on each one of them and that recently the government killed 10 people during a demonstration!”
Greek response to the first International Theatre Festival in Kurdistan
“We live a great experience”, she said in a telephone discussion with director Elli Papakonstantinou from Erbil, the capital-newly-the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq. We speak, of course, one of the oldest cities of humanity, with a story that takes us back to 6000 B.C. From there they passed the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Arabs, Ottomans, and even the Greeks, and within about 100 km found Gaugamela, where Alexander the Great defeated in 331 B.C Darius G’.
The Greek director is participating in Erbil in the first International Theatre Festival (18-24/9) along with 15 other theater groups from 9 different countries, between them, Iraq, Iran, Holland, France, Germany, Sweden and even Japan, etc. “It’s really bold to present a project on the destruction of a newly established country whose reality we know a little and only through the news. Should be noted that this is the first time a Greek team invited and may be found in this country, now rebuilt upon the ruins, with the sound of weapons not yet silenced … ” the director, told us, who with her team, ODC, participate in the interactive play “After,” which will show there on 21 / 9. If you recall, this particular performance on the disaster and what followed it, first appeared last July in Athens, in a historic, landmark tannery of Botanicos, most especially in the Balkans during the 19th century
2018 NEFELI edition
page 98, 100.
Lived Aesthetics of Crisis and Performance Politics of Discontent
[…] After – A Performance About the Catastrophe of the World (2011-12)
In many ways, this was an establishing piece for the company and the assemblage-like, performance style of ODC that has been their trademark since. The piece built upon themes ranging from the end of grand narratives in the postmodern era, mediatised realities, and the society of the spectacle to glocal tensions in the era of globalisation, thus blending fragmented yet dynamic set pieces with haunting, post-apocalyptic visuals and the ambience of Syntagma’s ‘Aganaktismenoi’ (Indignados Movement).
The work took the form of a devised, site-specific intermedial performance promenading in and out of the abandoned industrial building of Vyrsodepseio. Mapping the politics and aesthetics of post-apocalyptic, post-crisis Athens in a topographical, embodied, and politically allegorical way, it was composed as a poetic narrative of the Greek crisis that aimed to expose it both as systemic crisis—socio-political, cultural—as well as a financial one.
The concept of ‘after the end/after the catastrophe’ was explored in the form of modular site-specific episodes where “visitors were guided by expert catastrophologists” in various spaces in and out of the disused industrial tannery. The guided tour took place “among the ruins of civilization which left its traces in a space after the disaster, after the crisis, after capitalism.” An anguished feast of destruction was at the heart of the piece. In the final sequence, spectators found themselves becoming part of an ongoing spectacle, as if caught in a pending catharsis.
Representational genres and codes, modalities and spatialities blended unexpectedly and in unorthodox ways: site-specificity, speech, music, dance, improvisation, cinema, visual arts, philosophy, poetry, politics, satire co-existed in an explosive, assemblage-like composition. Papakonstantinou drew attention to the primacy of site-specific dramaturgy with the dance performance evolving around water and the rite of washing—washing also alluding to the previous function of the building as a tannery.
Following the introductory foyer part and a series of installations in the vicinity of the entrance, the audience was guided into an immense, flooded (still dripping), raw industrial space of bare cement columns. There, at the very spot where the skin wash ba-sins of the tannery were once located, an intensely physical dance piece was presented to the sounds of evocative, improvised live music for theremin and voice.
The main part of the performance took place upstairs, in the form of a film shooting live in front of an audience, with the director giving instructions through a loudspeaker. Silent, dark passages unfolded in between scenes: an ever-incomplete attempt to film the contemporary political and collective artistic life.
One sequence was inspired by Da Vinci’s Last Supper, deconstructed as a multicoloured carnival, followed in turn by a satirical choreographic intervention of Abba’s “Money, Money, Money” in a cover by Teris Chrissos. The closing monologue spoke passionately of the disintegration of our world by the all-surrounding phantasmagoria.
The reformulation of the crisis as an experimental aesthetic approach, the militant de- and re-theatricalisation, the interactive relationship with the audience, the use of exposition and the dialogue with the public sphere: these were all typical strategies of the performance which seemed to be inspired as much by the ideological universe of Guy Debord’s society of the spectacle as it was by a wide range of left critical thinkers, from Marx and Benjamin to Cornelius Castoriadis.
Furthermore, the geographical location of Orfeos Street in Votanikos mapped a discursive locus. The piece highlighted the telling connections and contradictions between the reused industrial building of a rundown area just off the city centre and the hegemonic centrality of the public space at Parliament Square that was reclaimed by the Aganaktismenoi from the protests of 2011 onwards. […]