“An extensive and profound rite of passage.”
Erin Mee, director, scholar, professor
Plato’s Symposium was an 8-day socratic mystery play that adopted the viewpoint of contemporary theatre and experiential live art in order to re-evaluate the Hellenistic roots of our notions of art and beauty. The spectators of the piece became its protagonists, who, during the week-long duration of the play, each took on their own journey towards the experience of absolute beauty.
From the basis of Platonic philosophy and ecstatic Dionysian worship we set out for a monumental task: to offer a new ground for the worldview of the contemporary human: art of beauty seen as a means towards personal and cultural emancipation. Origins of theatre, mysteries of love and possibilities of participatory performance were all in play.
Plato’s Symposium premiered in September 2013 in Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater in New York. The conference consisted of two parts. In the first one, four pieces were performed. The second part took place a week later, with artists and researches presenting theoretical / theatrical responses to the performances. The basic assumption of the conference was that theatre can be seen as a theoretical tool in itself; that certain theoterical constructions are best expressed through in the form of art instead of text.
Plato’s Symposium approached these ideas via the common roots of theatre and theory, by re-evaluating the philosophical and theatrical heritage of Ancient Greece. The “audience” of eight, called protagonists in the vocabulary of the Symposium, traveled through the four acts of the Mystery play during one week. The four performers channelled four Greek gods: Aphrodite, Apollon, Dionysus and Hermes, who would assist the protagonists on their journey.
”A recurrent theme in our conversations of Plato’s Symposium has been the crisis of language,
the breakdown of logos, in the face of such a complex and transformative experience.
An inevitable futility seems to shade our every endeavor
to illuminate those who were not involved about our experience.”
Igor Rodriguez, scholar
The dramaturgy of the piece was directed towards enableing each participant/protagonist to go through a personal process of becoming absolutely beautiful, while also creating an esoteric community through voluntary initiations.
ACT 1: LOGOS: In the first act the protagonist chose an image out of a series of twelve archetypal pictures. He contemplated the beauty of the image in a socratic dialogue with the Ancient Gods.
ACT 2: MIMESIS: In the second act the protagonist constructed a personal altar of beauty. Each protagonist then contemplated
the installation with a performer in an associative dialogue.
ACT 3: ANAGNORISIS: In the third act, the “turning point” the protagonists were led on an inner journey to their subjective
aesthetic realms. The performers helped the protagonists with planning out a ritual act of personal significance.
ACT 4: SYMPOSIUM: The fourth act was the climax of the play: a happening attended by all the protagonists. Each protagonist performed the ritual act of their own making, with the objective of becoming beautiful. Through the rituals the
protagonists were elevated to a status of gods, thus forming a pantheon of their own. The Symposium concluded with
a celebratory feast and rituals performed by Apollon, Aphrodite, Dionysos and Hermes.
PARTICIPANTS: 12 protagonists and 4 Gods
DIRECTION AND PERFORMANCE: Maria Oiva = Aphrodite, Jani-Petteri Olkkonen = Dionysos, Tuomas Laitinen = Apollo and Visa Knuuttila = Hermes
PHOTOGRAPHY: Visa Knuuttila & Natalya Dikhanov
MYSTERIES OF LOVE
Plato’s Symposium was the first part of a larger platonic trilogy titled Mysteries of Love. The second mystery play, Plato’s Cave was directed towards absolute truth and was performed in Copenhagen in 2016. The third part, Plato’s Republic, was directed towards absolute good and was performed in Helsinki in 2016. In addition, the masculine arcetypes of the project, namely Apollon, Dionysus and Hermes, created an exhibition called Trialogue in 2015.
Mysteries of Love was originally developed as a part of Utopian Reality, which was Reality Research Center’s research project during 2012-13. Utopian Reality strove to create utopian practices and forms that could enter the society and the everyday life of their participants.
“”The knowing that comes from Plato’s Symposium is a performer’s knowledge, a knowing from inside. Because it has
no external referent, and no way toward abstraction, it eludes relativity.”
Esther Neff, curator of Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater
”First disrupting the division between fabricated scenic (modeling) reality and act-ual, daily reality by using food,
physical transformation (real action: piercing of a nipple), and embedding of the “play” in “real” time (the performance
took protagonist-participants through 5 days), RRC emphasizes processes for interpreting reality and empowers
individual selves to build private symbolic schemas.”
Esther Neff, curator of curator of Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater
It expanded the meaning of theatre. It expanded the meaning of ritual. It expanded the meaning of theory.”
Erin Mee, director, scholar, professor
“Got me menstruating.”
Yelena Gluzman, curator of Theorems, Proofs, Rebuttals, and Propositions: A Conference of Theoretical Theater