Jeroen Olyslaegers – Mount Olympus / 24H
The Ancient Greeks are among us. No, that is perhaps not entirely true. The dreams of the Ancient Greeks are among us; they are buried deep in our cultural DNA. Their dreams and thoughts were handed down as myths and theatre plays based on those myths. They have been passed on, became a source of inspiration for artists during centuries of cultural despair or for those who thought we had collectively lost our way. They have enchanted us, made us wonder about ourselves, drove us to an even higher level of despair or made us accept that strange, cruel animal called ‘man’. We have raised a glass of wine honoring their wisdom, but we got drunk none the wiser. We have tested these dreams like rats in a laboratory, up to a point where we no longer knew whether we were doing the testing or whether we were the rats being tested. We have boiled these dreams down to what we in our self-indulgence consider to be their core: pure emotion. We have psychologized these dreams and hereby subtly undermined them, made them inferior to our so-called sophisticated thinking. We have marked them, classified them as ‘classical’ and hence untouchable, allowed ourselves to use them as background for our own self- proclaimed artistic vision. We have chewed on them, swallowed them down, we have digested them and made them into shit.
We did everything with these dreams, except actually dreaming them. Jan Fabre has frequently mentioned the dream he cherishes, i.e to work with the dreams of his sleeping performers. The vast world of Greek myths seemed to have been born in the Underworld, in the world of Persephone and Hades. It is a ritual world where people go to transform themselves, prepare themselves for another stage in their existence, to die another death and to welcome another life. The stillness of bodies lying down, surrendering them to the darkness each of us inhabits, invokes a world that is necessarily forgotten yet nevertheless radically present. As a writer I prepare myself to dream for this project, to allow myself to personally transform through the dreams that the myths have leashed upon this world. It is without any doubt a violent, cathartic experience that should be expressed through the plasticity of language.
Language is the stuff where dreams are made of. Spoken and written language forms our thoughts and infuses our senses. Yet language is a virus, as William S. Burroughs once stated. We are addicted to the stereotypes and cliché’s of mythology. Their significance has worn out, because we kid ourselves in believing its value without feeling it. To truly connect ourselves with myths we need to attack them with an anti-virus, with a different language. It is not a matter of recontextualizing the original stories to make them fit in our current world. As a writer I want to go deeper than that. I want new words to eat the older ones, to hack the current software of myth with worm viruses. My intention is not to crash the system but to break it open, show the entrails of myth and then build new dream bodies of meaning around it, using language as flesh and bone, skin and body fluids. If we consider our cultural DNA as a text, manipulating language or writing becomes a form of genetic engineering that creates other species and other meanings that reconnect with the dream originally invoked by the oral tradition of myths. Uttered sentences should be ripped apart, grinded down, vomited and tortured. Poetry on stage should lead to a vivisection of everything once held real and lead to everything once again sacred, ritual, and painfully personal. The list of characters or interfaces for this project can be numerous. Dreams may step beyond the clichés that we know and cherish. Medea can be a redemptive cannibal who nevertheless feasts on the flesh of her children with tears in her eyes; Antigone might be an angry soul waiting for reunion with her dead brother and ripping herself apart during that wait; Apollo might go insane when he discovers the true darkness locked up in his own ratio; and Zeus could become a fertile father with the ambition to kill everything that breathes. No dream can become real without the power of transformation. The power of the real can become a demon – or a daimon – in the theatre when the power of dreams becomes real. Reality is to be found in redeeming language as a dream, a form of poetic violence close to genetic terrorism. It allows me to step out of my comfort zone as a writer and face the knowledge of the Greek Underworld. It is a test, masked as a conquest. It is a trip where stillness is its dynamic. This is what I seek. This is what I want to write.
Follow the creation process of Mount Olympus through the eyes of both the makers and the performers via snapshots, testimonies, video fragments and more at http://www.mountolympus.be.
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17/10/2015 Romaeuropa Festival, Teatro Argentina, Rome, Italy (more info: http://romaeuropa.net/festival-2015/mount-olympus-to-glorify-the-cult-of-tragedy-a-24h-performance/)
05/12/2015 December Dance, Concertgebouw, Bruges, Belgium (more info: http://www.concertgebouw.be/nl/programmagids/detail/decemberdance12#modalOpen)
30/01/2016 Antwerpse Kleppers, Toneelhuis, Antwerp, Belgium (more info: https://toneelhuis.be/en/home)
05/03/2016 Teatro Central, Sevilla, Spain (more info: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/teatros/teatro-central/evento/mount-olympus-glorify-cult-tragedy-24-hour-performance)