What is intriguing about one of the oldest and smallest capitals of culture Elefsina
The creative director of CCD Productions, Chris Baldwin, and his collaborators working on the project Mystery 0 - Mysteries of Transition answer the questions of what Elefsina brings and provokes.
Chris Baldwin (Director of the Opening Weekend):
We looked backwards in order to look forwards! Both myself and Michail Marmarinos (General Artistic Director of 2023 Eleusis) were deeply conscious that while the past is all around us there is no one single past. There is an ancient past, the sacred sites, the echos of classical times, the whispers of myths and stories which are rooted here but now belong to the whole of mankind. And there is a more recent past which folds into contemporary life - such as the post-industrial landscapes and the thriving local communities who have their ancestral roots in other places altogether but made Eleusis their home during the 20th Century. So the past looks different, indeed is different, depending on from where and how you look at it. The past tells us that transformation is continual, a never ending process. And this process is still with us. Transformation is with us today, now as we speak and as I write, as you read, these words. Maybe we have forgotten in recent years that we human beings can intervene in time as individuals and societies and use our will to make an impact on these transformation processes.
For me that is what this project has been about - modernising the way we intervene in the processes which are transforming our lives. I guess in the past we looked to join political parties and trades unions to help us. And these are still important in our day to day lives. But we are increasingly looking to the arts and culture too. We want to experience, witness, participate in the kind of artistic and cultural projects which help us in our desire to see how our places, cities and communities can be transformed. Thats the modern bit!
This is the story of Elefsina, its harbour, life and dreams.Through this story we introduce many other voices from the past and the present. We are even invited to think about those yet to be born in Elefsina and indeed around the world. Before the show four processions arrive in the city, from land and from sea, from Eleusis and Athens and even from countries far across Europe. These arrivals will be unforgettable. They each tell us something about modern Eleusis, modern Greece, modern Europe. And after the moment we all come together at the seafront for the main show the audience is invited to see, hear, listen, taste even, twenty one other modern 'takes' told through cultural happenings along the coastline. We have transformed it into a cultural coastline for one evening. I hope that it is these stories, which are at the same time of this place yet universal, people will find memorable. In this hyper-saturated world of information I hope that this evening will cause us to slow down for a moment and see with fresh eyes how beautiful this place is, how rich the voices are, and feel proud that an audience from around Europe and the world want to hear these stories too.
Elefsina is a very special place. It is a place which requires you to listen, to look and to enter into dialogue with it. My particular responsibility, when accepting the invitation to come and work in Elefsina, was to come and listen and to enter into a dialogue with local people and their place. It struck me over the last year, while I was in Elefsina, that we live in a hyper-saturated world of information, where the globe spins fast and is beamed into our phones and devises using images from every part of the world, from the past and the present, through words and slogans, through micro-short musical motifs which worm their way into our heads. All this makes us dizzy, maybe this makes us a little numb, somewhat immune to the vulnerabilities of ourselves and to one another. I would say that this hyper-saturated world of information has not simply impacted on the speed with which we live our lives, walk down the road not looking at what is around us, but has also impacted upon our empathy for one another. Our ability to be empathetic depends on having time to listen and to breathe. Elefsina is both a place where there is no time (yes, we are all in a rush like everywhere) but also a place where time is slower - it gives you a chance to see that things were not always like they are now. Maybe this is to do with the ever presence of the sea, or the ruins or even the ex-industrial buildings being given a new life as we speak. It allows you to see that we came from what happened before and that the future can be determined, to some degree at least, by the choices we make today. Elefsina is very conscious of its past, both ancient and more modern. I think when an audience experiences the opening weekend of events they will understand how 'things can slow down' for a moment - give us a chance to breathe in the sea, the landscapes, the streets. And of course it will give us a chance to tell a wider audience, a European wide audience, how and why Elefsina has an important story to tell.
Elefsina will never have seen a cultural event, indeed a cultural year, like this before. The coastline and the harbour become stages for a unique event over the first weekend. But there are 52 weeks in 2023 - and 2023 Eluesis have many mysteries to reveal as the year progresses.
Petko Tanchev (Light Design and Projections):
Before visiting Elefsina for the first time, I did some online research and was already very inspired by the diversity of its historical timeline. Once an important sacred city of antiquity, it then became a major industrial center. And then when I went to Elefsina, it was even more inspiring to explore the place where the famous Eleusinian Mysteries took place, with all these excavations of temples and buildings, to learn more about the mythology and also to see the other modern appearance of the city - abandoned and working factories, shipwrecks, busy port, friendly people all around.
So when we worked on the vision of the opening ceremony of Elefsina ECoC 2023, we decided to take the direction of revealing the ancient myth of Persephone, focusing on the vertical connection between the Underworld and the Cosmos. We use the tools of light, projection and music, but also the brute force of industrial machinery - cranes, ships and boats. Our project tells a story about the local people and their relationship with the environment, history and culture. We take a mysterious object out of the sea and show on it our vision of light forms, organic energy, the characteristic cityscape and its inhabitants.
Philippe Geffroy (Sculpture Designer):
When I arrived in Elefsina, I was surprised by the contrast between the ancient vision of the remains of the temple of Hades and the contemporary vision of the huge hydrocarbon tanks of the industrial port. Then, the visit to the naval cemetery, where the wrecks of metal monsters are piled up on the sand, reminded me of the simple reality: Yesterday like today and tomorrow, it is still and always Hades who will have the last word. All these floating monsters invented to defy the seas, now lying on the side, covered with shells, are the vestiges testifying to a frenetic industrial past in the service of the religion which consists in believing that our only salvation lies in growth.
It is this vision and this perception that I wanted to express in my work, through the design of a 'Metal sculpture'; carcass. It is for me an allegory of the mythological monsters of the past, the flying monsters of Baron von Zeppelin at the beginning of the industrial era, and innovative metallic architectural structures, ranging from the Eiffel Tower to today's tallest buildings. This sculpture also symbolizes the rebirth of a majestic species that was thought to be doomed to extinction but which, thanks to the will of men of reason, has found its place and is starting to sing again at the bottom of the seas and oceans.
Finally, we can also see in this ovoid structure a symbol of fertility which, like Persephone, returns to run aground on the banks of Elefsina to bring life back to its present and to announce the spring of its future.