‘Icarus’ gets ready to fly to Epidaurus, Athens and Naples

Peter Greenaway, the renowned British director, together with his Dutch partner and collaborator Saskia, met early last week with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos. Greenaway’s «Icarus,» produced in collaboration with the Attica Cultural Society, will probably be one of the major events at the Cultural Olympiad, involving a phantasmagoric trilogy which will link ancient myth to modernity, a technological spectacle which will take place in Epidaurus, Athens (at the former airport at Hellenikon) and Naples from the summer of 2003 to summer 2004. Following his meeting, Greenaway left for Epidaurus in order to check the place out for himself on Wednesday. In the press conference after the meeting, the culture minister spoke first, and described the production as «an idea revolving around Icarus which involves various fundamental symbolic locations where various events will take place – not only performances, but installations and a kind of exhibition.» The minister said that the ambitious scheme was at the stage of «discussions,» while «today [Tuesday] we discussed the general concept, which is wonderful because it makes a mythological hero like Icarus known. [Greenaway] connects him to certain important mythological and historical sites; he links art with technology, mythology with the post-industrial age and the information society.» The human challenge Or, as Peter Greenaway put it more specifically, «The work aims not only to go back to the roots of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus but traces the link between this myth and every other attempt by human beings to fly and also all human ambition to challenge the gods, challenge God and finally, to take off. And, as is obvious in the myth, Icarus’s attempt to fly is as much a terrible tragedy as a huge success.» The director went on to say that «’Icarus’ is a drama in three acts: one set in Epidaurus, one in Athens and we hope that one will take place in Naples. My partners and I have been making efforts for the past five or six years, spending time and energy, to create through multimedia. ‘Icarus’ is an exceptional opportunity for us to use all our expertise and experience in such an ambitious scheme.» Greenaway ascribes a multifarious symbolism to his work: «It’s about a crossroads of cultures. Daedalus and Icarus were Greeks who attempted, however, to fly to a new world, from Greece to Italy. Thus we can see the parallels between [this].. . and the movement from Europe to the New World, America – from Athens to Paris and London and from Naples to New York. And of course, we want to stress the fact that we are living at the beginning of the 21st century. All our languages have connections with all ancient languages and with Greek history. However, at this moment we feel like creators ourselves and so we will use the whole bag of technological tricks for new kinds of projections, a new type of lighting, and so on.» Peter Greenaway on Greece is curt, almost severe. He recognizes the importance of the ancient Greek world but he clearly opts for its universal dimension. «It’s a Greek myth, and so the first part could not take place anywhere else but Epidaurus. But you Greeks cannot claim sole possession of Icarus. Icarus also belongs to us, Icarus belongs to the whole world.» To a reporter’s question on the extent of Greek participation in the production, the director replied, «I’m a foreigner here. My partners are all foreigners as well, Dutch and so on. But that fact dovetails with the Olympic Games, which is an international event and so perhaps we shouldn’t be governed by isolationism and the tendency to want such a work to be realized only by Greeks.» The Marbles He sided with the official British viewpoint when asked to comment on the Greek demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. «I’m a Londoner, English; I visit the British Museum very often and of course it is very important for me that the Marbles are there. But the question has two sides. For a start, there is the political aspect and all the political concepts of ownership of the Marbles and of course I will reiterate something that has been said repeatedly: If all the cultural and historical artifacts of all the different countries were returned, Britain would be left without any reason for museums.»