Three Athenians in Kassel, Episode Nine: I Shall Be Released

Your drunken trick has proved a source of blessing for us.

– Glycera in Menander’s Perikeiromene

The events of yesterday hung over our three Athenians like a cloud. After the cannibals kidnapping Alexis and now some animal-masked, Bob Dylan-quoting gang shaving Nina’s head, they were all very much on edge. They needed some advice and so they went to the only place they knew where they could seek help far away from the safety and security of their home in Athens. It was a mythical place on the very outskirts of the city, in an old abandoned brewery, where, they were told, people gathered who needed help. After the crisis and the virtual collapse of the political and social infrastructure of Kassel and the rest of Germany, the people of the city had developed their own version of the welfare state and this place, know as The People’s Parliament of Collective Answers was one of them. It was like a modern day Delphic Oracle, but instead of asking a Greek god and his priestess, you asked a group of people in Kassel who had assembled there to solve problems. Of course, this didn’t mean that the answers you received were any more riddling and perplexing than those at Delphi, but still, our Athenians had to try.

So, off Nina and Bia went in search of answers to the strange events of the day before (Alexis was still getting back to full health). They entered the room where people were seated on the floor, against the wall. In the center of the room was a microphone and, they were told, if you wanted to ask a question of the room, you would take the microphone and present your problem.

Bia nervously took the microphone, and began to speak:

“I am here with my friend Nina, to ask The People’s Parliament of Collective Answers for help. We are Athenians living here in Kassel”, at which a murmur went around the room, ” Yes, I know”, Bia continued, “We have it easier than you here in Kassel, but we are currently living among you and we have a problem. Yesterday two people in animal masks attacked Nina and shaved her head, they then misquoted a Bob Dylan song at us. We don’t know what any of this means, but we are scared and feel completely instrumentalized by the situation. I should also mention that a few days earlier another of us, Alexis, who is still in shock, was kidnapped by cannibals and nearly eaten by Neo-Viennese Actionists. Seriously, we need your help. We are simple artists who are here to bring the cutting edge of contemporary art to the city as part of documenta 14. But we are worried and fearful for our lives. What can we do?”

The room was silent as Bia placed the microphone back in the center, then one after one people started to speak. First the comments were hostile.

“You should go back where you came from”, one person said.

“This is not our problem, go ask the European Union and its Greek leaders”, said another.

“Hold on, fellow citizens, we need to help them, even if they are the cause of all our woe, even if their government has put us under the slavery of their debt”, pleaded a kind looking woman.

“I think I know what you should do” said a young man, who looked somewhat like one of the documenta 14 officials, “But it will not be easy”.

“Yes, we can help”, chimed in a young woman sitting next to Nina, “First you must listen to another Bob Dylan lyric and it will lead the way”

Then a man sitting next to Bia started to sing:

I see a light come shining
From the green ground to the pink
Any day now, any day now
You shall be released. 

At hearing this Bia and Nina left the room and went in search of the answer to the riddle they had just heard. First of all they convened a group of friends to see if they could help make sense of these oddly altered Bob Dylan lyrics that could explain how to escape Nina’s vigilante hairdressers.

At first, no one had a clue. But then after repeating the lyrics over and over again, Bia had an idea.

“What if the green is some kind of park? So, we first need to go to a green space and then somehow find a pink space, what do you think?” They all agreed it was better than just sitting there, so off they went.

They sat in the nearby park, not too far from their tiny house and waited. Hours passed.

And still they waited. Over time, some of their friends would leave and other friends would come and join them (look, there’s Gustave), but still they couldn’t break the code.

Then, as they were drinking and waiting, the conversation turned to the exhibition and artworks at documenta 14. Gustave was telling everyone about a dance performance he’d seen at the Neue Neue Galerie (Neue Hauptpost) by Maria Hassabi in which he described how the dancer’s bodies are barely moving, either splayed out on a pink carpet or confronted by a blinding set of stage lights.

“That’s it”, Bia screamed, “The pink place and the light, this is where we need to go, take us there now!” Our team of Athenians and their friends jumped to their feet and rushed off, excited to finally discover the truth of the riddle presented to them by The People’s Parliament of Collective Answers. When they reached the downstairs area, they first saw the lights, and knew they were in the right place (“I see a light come shining”)

But there was no one around to speak to, so they started to search for the pink carpet, eventually finding it on the second floor.

It was empty aside for a lone figure lying there. Bia carefully approached her and as she did so she began to speak: “At last, you have come. I have been waiting. Come, sit down and I will tell you what you need to know”. Bia sat down on the pink carpet beside her and the dancer spoke, without changing her position:

“There is nothing to be afraid of, you have been chosen – all three of you – Alexis, Nina and you, Bia – to join us. That is why we cut Nina’s hair, as an invitation, not as an act of violence. We too are performers at documenta 14, we too have felt instrumentalized by our roles, here in Kassel and in our lives elsewhere. We all feel like pawns in a game we have been forced to play in and which we can never win. We come from all over the world and we know that there is only one way to change the rabid spread of individualist, selfish narcissism we see around us. We must come together, here at documenta 14, and create the ultimate performance, the performance that will break down the boundaries of art and life. But to do this, we must first break out of our individual performances. Will you abandon your daily performanc and come to join us in our collective performance? What do you say? Are you with us?”

To be continued…

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