Releasing the Matriarch from Odysseus
Releasing the Matriarch from Odysseus is inspired by modern women who are free to break away from damaging stereotypes enforced by a patriarchal society, yet, struggle to rid themselves of damaging habits as a result of those stereotypes.
The behaviors of these women mirror those of circus elephants who have been moved from enclosed captivity into free-range sanctuaries. These elephants while in captivity learn the habit of swaying back and forth as a means of survival and as a coping mechanism to deal with the lack of space. Once these elephants are given space to roam, they don't unlearn the tick. They keep swaying in their post-traumatic stress.
Elephants live in matriarchal families and also have a connection to second metaphor in the video performance. It is said that the myth of the cyclops originates from ancient Greeks who once found elephant skulls, an animal they did not encounter in real life. Odysseus, who once fooled the cyclops Polypemus, is a reference to powerful men that often hurt women in our current society.
The story goes that when Odysseus was trapped in the cave of Polyphemus, the cyclops and son of Poseidon and god of the sea, he escaped by fooling Polyphemus into thinking his name was 'nobody.' When Odysseus attacked, Polyphemus cried out that nobody was hurting him and his neighbors ignored his plea. Throughout the video, performers repeat the words 'nobody' in reference to this story and the trickery the patriarchy often deploys on women.
Through this performance, by releasing the elephant of Odysseus, we celebrate the freedom of women tarnished with the debt left by a patriarchal history.
For this filmed performance, I directed and performed collaborating with three women, videographer Chani Bockwinkel, opera singer Margaret Starr, and Anna Landa whose wind harp is heard in the work. Together we created a reflection on women gaining agency in patriarchal society.