The art installation entitled Life Without Tragedy by artist Kostis Velonis arrived at Astor Place this month ~ three sculptures constructed of wood that mimic an ancient Greek amphitheater.
Presented by The Public Theater and Onassis USA for the Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy is Coming, the installation shares Velonis’ interest in democracy, encountering ancient Greek tragedy, with the amphitheater as a symbol of the ancient space, used for the promotion of political discussions.
“Theatrical performances were, in the Athenian democracy, deeply rooted in the polity and it’s institutions. The ctors and the members of the chorus were citizens, while the gathering in the theater functioned as an ecclesia (assembly of the citizens). The theater, although it was established during the period of the tyrants, is considered as a progeny of democracy, since it flourished in parallel with the democratic system of government. Democracy would liberate ancient Greek tragedy from its religious nature, giving it a direct anthropocentric and political character.”
“Within the theater, the Athenians exercised in the debate of ideas, dialogue and communication. Velonis identifies the notion of democracy with Greek tragedy, since the theater in ancient Greece was not only a form of art, but also a social institution. The artwork consists of three sculptures—constructed of wood–that mimic an ancient Greek amphitheater.”
“Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming” is a festival of arts and ideas that celebrates, reevaluates, and considers anew the concept of democracy in the one space that has, since Greek antiquity, allowed citizens to engage peacefully and constructively with serious and often divisive issues, be they social, political, religious, or ideological: a public theater. Through a multidisciplinary program of theater, music, talks, and visual art, Onassis USA and The Public Theater, two agitators of public curiosity—one Greek, one American—offer a joint project that brings together Greek and American artists and thinkers to bridge the origins of democracy with its evolution, its violent and idealistic past with its distorted present, and offer artistic interpretations about its current state and future.
Life Without Tragedy will be on view at the Astor Place South Plaza through April 30, 2019, presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program and The Village Alliance.