- Akhilleus_Penthesileia, 2011
- acrylique sur canevas
- 274 X 1386 cm
The work Penthesilea is homage, although I think that might be too strong a word, to the fourteen young women who died at the University of Montreal in December 1989.
I had first strolled by a plaque on the university grounds in June 2006 when I considered doing a project about the tragedy. I began to document the event. I wanted to bear witness through my art but I didn’t want to preach. All these issues were abstractions until September 2006 when I was present at the Dawson College shooting. I suddenly commiserated with the fear that a victim feels. It was a pivotal moment for me and I expressed my feelings through an internet piece, Supercolumbine (2007) that responded directly to the emotions that I felt, but at the same time a painting began to develop at my studio.
As a child I assuaged fears of nuclear annihilation by trying to understand every detail of the atomic bomb. I have continued this process of research and assimilation throughout my art career.
At the University of Montreal the killer imagined that women were haughty and pompous. For this inane perception he destroyed them. Had he stopped for a moment, he might have realised that they couldn’t have been responsible for his demons. I remembered a Bronze Age myth where women were independent and my thoughts about the massacre sublimated into the character of Penthesilea.
The fourteen panels tell the story of the Amazon Queen who challenged Achilles at Troy. In Homeric society, women were dependent on their husbands. In the Amazon legend, they were raided, their men were killed and the women were enslaved. One Amazon, Hyppolyte, refused and devised a way to break the cycle and establish a city of women who could defend themselves.
With Penthesilea, I felt that I couldn’t simply recreate fourteen scenes from classical Greek black background pottery. My story had to be rooted in something that was deeper, emerging from its own world and making sense within that world. With Penthesilea each panel pushed me deeper into historical, art historical and classics research. As part of the process I created an interactive website where I wrote a short novel and invited people to alter the project through blog software that recorded comments and revisions. In my perception, the synthesis of this process helped me to determine the ultimate shape of the work.
Penthesilea’s quest for atonement leads her to battle Achilles but she was doomed by venturing into the universe of men. In Marc Lepine’s head, I presume, women had entered a world that was his by birthright. They had to be taught the natural order of things, which in his judgement included bullets and guns.
A monument didn’t seem appropriate to me, especially since they tend to belong to the world of men. Instead I painted Penthesilea as an expiation for having not being able to stop Marc Lepine or Kimveer Gill. Penthesilea died at the hand of Achilles, and in my allegory he is not stronger than her but had the weapons. Of course, Amazons could never have existed because they would have been destroyed by someone as quickly and easily as Lepine murdered fourteen women.
In my version of the myth Artemis puts an end to Achilles. I diverge from tradition since I speculate that all who have lived such events fantasize disarming a coward.
To me the narrative is clear. This was her birth, her adolescence, her wishing for things, and here is vengeance and finally mourning, an activity that fades to black. For those who might have been close to these events, all explanations become secondary. Something in this work might remind them of a loved one. Children’s hands represent the babies that will never be born. They are the stars in the sky, snow on the television.
To navigate: Most lines link to somewhere but this is far from finished. Penthesilea (as a story) is a rewrite of the myth. Rhetoric lists some of the original sources. Other links have simply occurred and I have decided to retain them. Some of the entries were generated by machines. (Speaking of plagiarism, this site, like most wikis, was being drowned by spam, so now you do have to register your logon but otherwise the wiki is still open.)
- Panels 1-2
- a bit mean
- lessons and history
- Panels 3-5
- about becoming of age
- the stag hunt 1
- the stag hunt 2
- Panels 6-7
- the death of the Queen
- Panels 8-10
- the beauty of the Queen
- Thersites' rant
- Nestor's speech
- Panels 11-12
- the funeral of a daughter of Troy
- the seduction of Lyssa
- Panels 13-14
- a fool's death
- divine Themis
Map of Events here.
[illustrated .html version] here.
I said the operator's part in the business had been represented to me as something which can be done entirely without feeling - rather like turning the handle of a barrel-organ.
"Not at all", he said. "In fact, there's a subtle relationship between the movements of his fingers and the movements of the puppets attached to them, something like the relationship between numbers and their logarithms or between asymptote and hyperbola." Yet he did believe this last trace of human volition could be removed from the marionettes and their dance transferred entirely to the realm of mechanical forces, even produced, as I had suggested, by turning a handle.
I told him I was astonished at the attention he was paying to this vulgar species of an art form. It wasn't just that he thought it capable of loftier development; he seemed to be working to this end himself.
He smiled. He said he was confident that, if he could get a craftsman to construct a marionette to the specifications he had in mind, he could perform a dance with it which neither he nor any other skilled dancer of his time... could equal.
- I DON'T GET YOUR PROBLEM
no problem just wondering
How much for the website? Plastic exploration by spam creator: Noinf126
Don't forget that everyone hates a tourist.
“Penthesilea” is very much about intersubjectivity. One distinguishes the nature of the “other” through communication. As two people are talking, the listener collects private thoughts and organises and defines, all the while that the speaker is talking. She is obliged, as the listener, to turn to her self inside to determine a response. She consequently communicates from within to her perceptive world and the “other” receives what is offered at that level. As a viewer, sitting out there waiting with your mouse to click, you are already considering a response. When we are on line that is the kind of person that we are. Through all of this, we are always looking for responses rather than saying anything. This is one of the more interesting things in the process. Adonis was my father and I am sometimes puzzled at why he behaved the way that he did. This is basically why I am in dialogue here now.
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