Ben Speth: Iliads

selfportrait

1.

From Bruno Latour and Adam Lowe:

To penetrate [The Iliad’s] inherent greatness, you need to bring with you all of the successive versions, adaptations, and accommodations. Nothing is more ordinary than this mechanism.

2.

Ben Speth launches an epic performance event combining seven different translation’s of the Iliad in a marathon reading of  chapters one to four by a team of ten contemporary dance artists. Sources for this live art Iliadic cento-slam range from Chapman (1615) to Buckley (1851) to Fagles (1990). When we enter the space, we see the actual texts piled on a table, a tall stack of books. The books are later distributed among the performers. The sequence of the readings – each performer reads somewhere between five and twenty lines at a time – is fixed by Speth. And during the reading of each of the four chapters there’s a different structure for interprative movement improvisations. Between each chapter there’s a short break, with plenty of food, wine and beer.

3.

This performance can only be about isolated moments, accidental beauties and insights revealed fleetingly amid the sprawl of baffled and baffling improvisation. So the first moment. What is the theatre of war? A loft on Moreland Street in Footscray. Afternoon. Midsummer. A very mild midsummer. The sun is setting. The loft is light and spacious, with one large window open to the outside. It takes roughly one hour to read each book of the Iliad aloud. And each book is supposed to represent roughly one day of the siege of Troy. Across the first hour, as the Greeks argue (WHY ARE THEY FIGHTING?), the colours of the evening shift and fall, from white birds to, per Christopher Logue’s adaptation of the poem–

Honey.
Onion.
Pearl.
Rat:

The colours lingers in the loft, it being so open and so spacious. It is Simone Weil who calls Homer as “impartial as sunlight”. And the body of the air is white and silver. Continue reading “Ben Speth: Iliads”

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