Laboratory Antigone

by Maria Papadimitriou

October 13-December 15, 2016

photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Don't just visit our art installations. Be part of them! Maria Papadimitriou created a site-specific art installation, on view in the Gallery. The multifaceted work is described by the artist as a preamble to the tragedy that plays out in Sophocles' Antigone. 

Viewing and participation go hand-in-hand. The work is complemented by viewers themselves: they can read, write on the wall and essentially select their role in the tragedy. “Above all, "Laboratory Antigone" is a thought process; and because of that it has a pedagogical dimension, which calls for urgent and vital cooperation and unity with others,” says Maria Papadimitriou.

Artist's Statement

A couple of years ago, while returning from a trip to Volos with my friend and colleague at the University of Thessaly, Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, we took a detour to Leivadia to meet our friend, the clarinetist Yorgos Mangas. At some point, traveling toward Thebes, Yorgos looked distractedly out the window and said: “We are going through a legendary landscape, where bloodthirsty battles took place, a set inhabited by historical symbols.”

Some months ago, I happened to take the same journey, this time in a taxi, and suddenly, upon seeing on that same plain a three-storied house, deserted like a carcass, I recalled Yorgos’ words. It was a ruined house from the ’60s without windows, and the way the afternoon sun fell on it made it stand out even more. I gazed at it, and in my mind’s eye it started to look like a deserted palace.

So I began contemplating the history of the Theban landscape and its mythical personae, Oedipus, and his sister and daughter Antigone. The deserted palace, which reigns in the calm of the plain, looked more like a facade, a persona from an ancient play and not a common dwelling. The way in which the windows lay naked made it appear like a human figure. It was domineering, suggestive, and at the same time archaic.

This picture disturbed me; and connecting it to the myth of Antigone in my mind, I pictured figures and moments of action in this mythical setting. The next question was probably inevitable: How was I going to narrate the same myth in a different place and in a different scene? This led me, some days later, to choose the old Volos tannery as a point of reference. After all, Volos had been the starting point of these travels. The tannery is also a given place with a powerful “staging.” However, most importantly, therein too lay a sense of death. I would say you could smell death in it, as it was full of hides and processed animal skins. The tannery also has a uniform, Renaissance outline, intensified by its wooden ceiling.

This is how my revelation in the Theban plain was transposed into the dramatic esoteric walls of the tannery.

My work, as an artist, is to hone a director’s concept, then materialize it and turn it into a moment of real sensibility; this is called the “primary idea,” which transforms itself, through the artist, into an image.

In preparation for Antigone yet another question emerged: how to communicate the image of a play in its editing phase, and not as the final result—or, more precisely, how to communicate that same question through a picture. After all, Antigone does little else than pose questions to us. So this work is the envisioning of the question and of the “primary idea” that came to me while traveling through the Theban landscape. It is a raw piece of work, like the tragedy itself.

Above all, Laboratory Antigone is a thought process; and because of that it has a pedagogical dimension, which calls for urgent and vital cooperation and unity with others.

Antigone monologue read by actress Amalia Moutoussi.