A discussion with Despina Panagiotopoulou

  •  Author: Karanatsis Christos
  •  Published on: 19/11/2014

What is Myth? What does it carry?

Will hours of conversation at Protogenous street with director Despina Panagiotopoulou result in finding the answers?

The exploration begins not as it is normally expected. She asks me to talk to her about myself. My “now” moments in Athens, my actions, my re-actions.

 She offers her “other” comment on this disaffiliation, which I conveniently build in my head, several minutes later, when we discuss the possibility that Anti-Oedipus may as well coexist with Oedipus instead of just schematically stand opposite him, but also the goal of her lifelong research on Myth.

"Oedipus can become anti-Oedipus but also subjugate Anti-Oedipus. One cannot exist without the other. But I don’t even want to suggest that in my work. I am interested in retaining the warmth of the lingering question mark that lives within the Myth and was molded by Sophocles. This is the only way to bridge anything, creating a unified space in which you can be free and authentic".

Despina will present a theatrical ceremony entitled Sonic Oedipus based on Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex and Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze-Guattari.

During the first cycle of this creative challenge, six guests at a time will be taken by an unknown voice and an unnamed guide on a mythical journey in the centre of Athens, looking for the unexpected along the way, possibly Oedipus Rex’s print.

That print of the ancient myth and the primal matter it carries, is the main focus of the director’s research.

A voice, speech or the lack of it, is the protagonist in Sonic Oedipus. Despina kindly explains this notion.

"This journey focuses on the voice not just as a sound, but as a tool, a strategy build in order to contact someone out there, to approach him/her through a multi-familiar tone. In this work the voice is the great monarch, balancing on stilts perhaps, that manages to form a space that becomes collective when the ability to really listen is activated. So it’s not just the voice but the way we listen, the way we choose to penetrate each other with a force which we, fortunately, can’t always control. Besides the voice, in this work, is a process that does not stop when you can’t hear it anymore. I am interested in what comes after the voice. Its echo and overtones".

A thought follows: "Retaining question marks and researching at a time when solutions and answers are so popular and almost authoritatively necessary?"

Despina, almost at the end of my thought, expresses her hope regarding Sonic Oedipus’s impact: "The most beautiful thing that could happen through this and the personal creative choices it resonates, is to elevate them to a field of political negotiation, political in the sense of the ancient “πόλις”, where its citizens are consciously aware of what the term really means".

Politics. Such a “tortured” word. An idea that is strongly related to Myth. How, why?

"I feel that Art and Myth are naturally political, because they carry the possibility of an upset. I'll use theatre as an example here since it has the ability to use its tools in order to speak a different language, somewhat hidden, forgotten, repressed, you can characterize it as you please. The ability to use editing and time in theatre whichever way you like is a political statement on its own. The opportunity to break linearity and enter the space of myth, an experience where you're not just an observer but a participant, brings you in contact with the primal matter. That’s where your body can be free and dismisses the state of the Self".

At this point, our discussion refocuses on Myth. Its anarchist nature, that does not follow the “recipes” of linearity and reenactment. We attempt a short yet dense journey from the first culture that Man ever shaped to how the political element actually can echo linearity’s fracture, in art and science.

Two fields that many like to see as hostile camps but Despina now believes work as closely as they’ve never have before.

"If we say that science today is trying to expand our perceptual abilities, art has the potential to expand our sensory perceptions, to go into areas that are currently unexplored. One feeds the other and at the same time they both try to open up new, closed, perhaps dangerous for some, spaces”.

Body and Space is the next area we touch upon, where the city and the myth, even if we assume that the ancient Greek drama is the urbanization of the latter, star again. Despina observes the following when she compares the past to the present: "The body of the ancient Greek man/woman, at least for the period we are discussing, belonged in a way first to the city and then at home. His or her existence was first created as part of the public sphere. Existence within the private world was another story. Today we experience the exact situation. The outside world only exists in relation to oneself and his/her privately owned space. We assert the common area in relation to how it can or will satisfy our needs. People during those times, would never think to not participate in public events. One of those events was the theatre. The collective space and collective voice that I explore with Sonic Oedipus touches upon that need to get together but also carries an oxymoron if you like, when we ourselves actually see and manage the outside space as a fringe reflection of our private world. At least beyond the latter trap, there is still an eagerness to see and treat the collective space differently".

Despina has traveled around the globe and worked with influential people of the theatrical world that she respects and shows a rare devotion to. Thus I feel I don’t need to mention all the different names and places that could possibly fill the reader's mind with exclamation points of awe epic proportions.

 Moreover, during our discussion it became clear that her favorite punctuation mark is the question mark. Not as a loyal expression of a naval-gazing notion that resembles the "art for the sake of art" motto, but as a result of a deeply personal quest. When she chooses to stick the word "must" next to the verb "question", she does so not in order to emphasize the practice of a blinkered dogma but to shed light on a physical condition that can expose and hence release and include.

Periodically she talks to me about her love of archeology and how, when combined with the history of art, it can tell us about how the myth always reflected the "man’s willingness to tame and control the divine and survive".

There, on Protogenous street, named after the ancient Greek painter and sculptor, Despina shared her own touches to a canvas of structure and sensitivity, putting her question mark next to mine.

"What would happen if we discovered today that who we call the primitive man, showcased a much greater respect to human life that the one we do today?"

And there’s the crack. A break in linearity. So Oedipus comes full circle. Both a point of beginning and an end, at any given moment.


Sonic-Oedipus a ceremony

All we have is a voice

Based on Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

and Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze- Guattari

Meeting place Syntagma Square

Saturday, November 15th at 20:00

Sunday, November 16th at 15:00

Monday November 17th at 20:00

 Limited number of participants 6 people at a time

Bookings by mail: awakenigathens@gmail.com or call 6977139199

Idea/choreography: Despina Panagiotopoulou

Artistic collaboration: Yiorgos Dampasis

Soundscape – Voices:  Loukia Michalopoulou - Despina Panagiotopoulou

Theatrical space: Yiorgos Dampasis

With the participation of six friends-artists as guides

Production: Javier Munoz Rodriguez

Graphic assistance: Vassilis Noulas