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The sirens national anthem

The Sirens will revive their presence in a time of pixels and virtual reality.


Now, however, the sirens are even more terrifying weapon than songs, namely silence. Admittedly, it has not happened, but perhaps conceivably, that someone has saved themselves from their song, but from their silence certainly not. It fthe wish of having been defeated by their own power, og the all-encompassing vanity that follows from it, no mortal can resist.
From "The Silence of the Sirens" by Franz Kafka

Some of the first which struck me when I saw the movie The Sirens The first time is how quickly roles and political signs can shift. When the film was filmed in Athens on February 2016, Greece was still in financial crisis. The EU and the World Bank had set foot because Greece had not followed capitalist rules for a long time, but many felt that Europe had failed its own history. Today, the European Union and Europe are suddenly opposed to the capitalism and divisive protectionism that – no matter how we turn and turn it around – is currently democratically elected to rule the United States. After World War II, most European composers did everything they could to avoid making music that could be used for political seduction or propaganda of any kind. When the British parliament clubbed through Brexit recently, the opposition hummed Beethoven's Ode to the joy, which is also the EU anthem, as a final protest.

The music is central also in the movie The Sirens. The film spins on an opera of the same name that was created for the project Monsters of Reality: The Mimesis Machine at the National Theater during the Ibsen Festival in September last year. In advance, playwright and curator Siri Forberg invited a group of artists to Athens to investigate mimesisthe concept – the theater's principle of imitation or imitation. Mimesis has a basic duality in it. As a mimesis machine, theater is both reality and staging, truth and falsehood, presentation and representation at the same time. But the same can be said of what we daily call "reality". When I asked Crispin Gurholt why he wanted to work with opera, he talked about engaging through emotion, about the politics of reviving presence in a time of pixels and virtual reality.

But what's different engagement and propaganda? If the speculation is true, that the timing and the most unreasonable parts of President Donald Trump's entry ban were staged so that communications strategist Steve Bannon could, with the least attention, introduce himself to the National Security Council – is it theater or reality? In late January, a political philosopher, David Ernst, wrote on the website Thefederalist.com that Donald Trump is one of the first politicians to turn postmodernism on itself.

Has art contributed to build a post-factual world where everything is relative and subjective? Opera is artificial – and at the same time it is also real: it is physics, body, muscles, breathing and space. Opera The Sirens is inspired by the sirens – mythological figures who try to attract sailors with song and seduce them. In the myth of Odysseus, the song of the sirens is the opposite of progress and reason, a temptation that puts Odysseus to the test and will prevent him from carrying out his mission. But the test can also be a resistance that is logically necessary to be able to understand Odysseus' choice as free. Odysseus allows himself to be tied to the mast and plugs the ears of his rowers again so he can listen to the sirens without being seduced.

I Enlightenment dialectics In fact, Adorno and Horkheimer compare this situation to a concert: The bound Odysseus is equated with a modern concert audience that listens to music at a distance without playing themselves – and the two authors see this as an example of how art and craft differ.

In Gurholt's opera the sirens have become nations. The siren of Greece has moved away from the community, away from the chorus of sirens called Europe. "If she dies, we die," sings Europa. "We need to lure her back." "I am dying, you are dying, we are dying," sings Hellas. Europe needs democracy as a symbol. But what is the relationship between this symbol and historical democracy? Or between the everyday things – boats, birds, benches, trash cans, graffiti – that Gurholt films with a handheld camera and the tourist's gaze, and the temples that have stood there for millennia, or the dramatic music for the pictures? The Sirens also contains small pieces of existing music and lyrics that can be seen as quotes or representations. "With drooping wings you cupids come," sings Europa – from Purcells Dido and Aeneas. "I am poisoned, I die, they die, I die, we die, democracy," sings Hellas.

Is a sustainable climate so fundamental that the courts can invoke the Constitution and override a Storting decision? Or is democracy threatened if the decision is not respected?

If democracy is poisoned, it is a serious allegation. What does it mean to formulate it? What is democracy? One may respond immediately to democracy – but democracy is also the distribution of power that enables American judges to slow down Trump – and that enables the lawsuit that will come to court here at home during 2017, where Greenpeace and Nature and Youth have sued the State and claim that the permit granted by the Storting for oil exploration in the Barents Sea violates Article 112 of the Constitution. Is a sustainable climate such a fundamental right that the courts can invoke the Constitution and override a Storting decision? Or is democracy threatened if the Storting's decision is not respected?

In Kafka's short story, which has also inspired the opera film The Sirens, opens the myth's categorical either – or up in a more speculative and playful shift of perspectives. Kafka puts wax plugs in Odysseus' ears – and then states that wax is impossible to stop the voice of a siren. Suppose the sirens did not actually sing – that Odysseus just thought the wax plugs worked? Or one more twist, finally: Seen that Odysseus was so cunning that he knew the sirens had lost their voice – but just pretended to think that the wax plugs worked?

How can art and fiction be kept open to free expression, to play with ambiguity, and at the same time prevent divisive abuse of the same?

Odysseus, it is said, was so cunning, was such a fox that even the goddess of fate could not penetrate into his innermost being, perhaps he really noticed, even if it is no longer to comprehend the human mind, that the sirens were silent, and that he therefore kept the aforesaid appearance of skin before them and the gods only as a shield, so to speak.
From "The silence of the sirens" by Franz Kafka

For online subscribers, watch the movie here.


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