Scholars' Association News
Issue 40
November 2016


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‘Antigone Now’ in New York

Antigone, “the tragedy with the greatest political depth to it” (to quote Kornelios Kastoriadis) was the central issue at the 4-day festival held at the Onassis Cultural Centre in New York from 13 to 16 October 2016. ‘Antigone Now’ is the second annual Festival of Arts and Ideas hosted by the Onassis Foundation’s sister organisation in New York. The aim was to explore contemporary interpretations of Antigone’s story through the visual and performing arts, digital media and programmes for the whole family.

#iSTANDfor, a global digital campaign which showcases women and men who, in taking brave steps and setting aside the risk, have changed the world for the better, was launched. Drawing on Antigone’s example and her courage in defending her beliefs right to the end, the participants share their personal stories via the #iSTANDfor digital platform and social media. The festival included over 30 events aimed at audiences of all ages and held at both the Onassis Cultural Centre and online.

“Focusing on the story of Antigone to promote a deeper understanding of how ancient Greek culture has shaped and enriched our modern value systems, Antigone Now will foster a dialogue among people from the United States and around the globe about many of the problems we face in the world today” said Antonis Papadimitriou, President of the Onassis Foundation. “Antigone’s love for her brother, her sense of duty and her courage to challenge powerful forces, especially as a woman, makes her an admirable figure. Her heroic story applies to many of today’s topical issues such as power struggles, women’s rights, societal laws and immigration”.

Amalia Kosmetatou, executive and cultural director of the Onassis Foundation in New York went on to add that “Sophocles’ Antigone speaks to the values and perils of our democratic culture. In organizing this Festival, it has been extremely inspiring to see how artists and thinkers have responded so passionately to this Greek tragedy and the questions it raises for our fractious times, by creating works that call for positive action and unity”.

Acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems, whom the New York Times has dubbed “one of the more interesting artists working in the gap between art and politics” created a new performance entitled Past Tense for the opening night (13 October), consisting of text, song, projection and video.

The festival’s digital campaign #iSTANDfor has been up and running since 24 August. Its aim is to encourage young people around the world to collaborate in support of joint social, economic or environmental goals, and to use the social media to share their stories of activism to set an example to be copied. In addition, there were a series of talks about the messages Antigone conveys given by keynote speakers on 15 October in the Olympic Tower Atrium. Jaha Dukureh and Masih Alinejad talked about gender equality; Céline Cousteau, Erin Schrode and Christopher Swain spoke about the environment; Jacob Lief and Ian Rowe discussed education; Gini Reticker, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya Kim Barker explored women’s rights and Sarah Clements and Jessica Mindich talked about ending violence.

Excerpts from the documentary Antigone in Ferguson were also screened that same day, along with dramatic readings of scenes of the ancient work by well-known actors. Maria Papadimitriou, who represented Greece at the 2015 Venice Biennale devised the Laboratory Antigone, an installation focusing on performances of the tragedy, which will remain in the exhibition space until December. The short film We, Antigone by Stefanos Tsivopoulos, which tackles gender and sexual orientation issues, questions of economic inequality and social mobility, as also screened in the exhibition space throughout the entire festival.

The festival also included events for kids and teenagers, with music and theatre workshops, storytelling, educational programmes and the Global Rhythms: Be Drummers! Concert with music from around the world, a screening of the documentary We Are Not Princesses shot in Lebanon in 2014 featuring 35 women from Syria, a discussion with the director Bridgette Auger and producer Hal Scardino, and a presentation of the shadow theatre work Mina’s Dream by Iranian artist Hamid Rahmanian.

Georgia Sagri, Onassis scholar, also participated in the Festival with her performance Antigone Model on 15 October at the Onassis Cultural Centre exhibition space. Sagri creates sound and rhythmic environments which are recorded and repeated as she synchronises her movements with the recorded sounds. This is a 7-minute production which is performed in cycles for half an hour. Each repetition, though similar to the previous one, creates a different artistic result.

The extramural events included dramatic readings of Antigone for various audiences, documentary screenings, and a discussion on ‘A modern-day Antigone’ as part of the Live from the NYPL series of talks, featuring Mona Eltahawy, an American-Egyptian journalist who defends women’s rights in the Middle East.

For more information visit the festival’s website.

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