Fractals of Prometheus Ignites

The flower we touch as children in awe
burns. The only chide needed to withdraw.
With undeniable power to flaw, fire will still flicker and die.
For it lives, as do You and I.
…a heap of various regrets,
sorrowful realities of unfledged dreams, or maybe more. Maybe less.
the road we traipse, personal indeed,
what was meant for good becomes misdeed.
the smoke after you invented fire, the ashes,
temper the bitter earth —
its tender seed.
Intended only for the gods,
bodies erased in the atom bomb
In human hands surely slipshods.
a weight
too heavy for a psalm —-
I regret.
Fire was given with love —-
Fire illuminates our path of regret.
Beloved, is that your knowing? Punishment, hereinabove?

Throughout Fractals of Prometheus: Unity of Images, an interactive live stream experiment, performers Buffy, Mattie BB, John Maria Gutierrez, Valois Mickens, and Kim Savarino activated La MaMa’s newly renovated 74A building, earlier this month, by physically and metaphysically traveling through a collection of similar questions. Conceived and produced by La MaMa’s Executive Director, Mia Yoo, and CultureHub’s Billy Clark and Mattie BB, and supported by the dramaturgy of Ben Hoover, the project provided a glimpse at how the ethos of meeting epic, ancient narratives with contemporary technologies can be in service of the risks that fuel the fire of truly experimental work. 

Buffy foreground, Illustration by Sasa Yung, screenshot by maura

Without fire, we mortals would be eternally bound to darkness.

We extinguish our fear when we seek to identify. After all, why wonder when you can name and of course, rename. Fire is no longer the physical manifestation of the metaphysical contained in the liver: emotions, heat, life, but merely a common-place happening that we are conditioned to believe is not magical, is not divine, but is only a consequence, no, an axiom of combustion combined with heat and fuel— something for the fire to consume. Fire, in our hearts, is alive— a living phenomenon, a symbol of passion, of rage, of life. Why must we reduce the divine to reach the quotients of our understanding? Why do we disavow our curiosity, our wonder,  our awe? If fire is only mere, why do we have creation myths to understand its existence here. 

And… why do we skitter away or decry the vulnerable space of works still deeply within the space of their own curiosity? How can we continue to attend to the emergent possibilities of experiments?  Might support for more “in-process” showings allow us to subvert the fast fashion accelerations of late-stage capitalism? How can public-facing events matter as much “in development” as they do in final form? And how is the “meaning” of a work embedded within the form as, as well as delivered via its content? Writers Alexa Derman and Sauda Jackson supported one of yet another Culturehub example of the medium as the message, providing the performers with different scenes around the myth of Prometheus and the theme of regret. In a form of metafiction, we knew that we as viewers were part of a ritual of rending, a pulling apart of reality that will once again reset after the artists have offered up all they can in a promethean effort.

The myth of prometheus, Illustration by Sasa Yung

The cost of Prometheus’ stolen gift of love was to have his liver eaten by an eagle for eternity, realized by Sasa Yung’s illustration of the work that has become the artifact of the production.

Fractals of Prometheus, built for online viewership on a laptop, could also be witnessed by a small group of in-person attendees. Within CultureHub’s custom-built platform, under the technical direction of DeAndra Anthony, the creative technology of Sangmin Chae, creative coding of Aidan Nelson, online viewers were able to see Yung’s hand-drawn animations overlapping the live feed of the performance, lit by Evan Anderson. While in-person attendees joined in the physical journey, watching from behind the scenes and, sometimes, from within the scene as the performers and crew tested the renovated building’s new data network, streaming from 10 different cameras and locations. In-person, viewers experienced the energetic fire of live production, watching Billy Clark pass the performers with a multi-antennaed gimble like a swooping bird of prey. In-person viewers received the surprising reveal of live musicians Will Brown, Jack Lynch, and Sunny tucked into a corner, blending in Leonie Bell’s sound design, while online viewers benefited from the clear delivery of text thanks to Live Park NY’s audio support. 

Mattie BB, Buffy, John Maria Gutierrez, Kim Savarino, Valois Mickens (l-r), Illustration by Sasa Yung, screenshot by maura

In the interactive live stream of Fractals of Prometheus, we are asked to engage with our regrets as a vehicle to understand the regrets of Prometheus the fire stealer. We are asked directly, “Do you have any regrets?” Many responses were excavated from my eventide memory — playing all at once like rooms of a hall, all playing different pieces of music at the same time.

I pause. 

I can’t pick just one. And if I do, it needs to be my best one. The cast deserves my best. 

Ah ha. I’ve got it: “Staircase wit. Not saying what I mean.” There you go. That’s definitely the most clever answer you’ve got, bro.

A salve escapes their lips:“ You regret not having control.”

Immediately it becomes clear the protection of my office has no jurisdiction here. For I was read, so clearly, 15 miles away.  Transfixed in this moment of profound truth, I, we, all of us, are transported to a place of reflection.

It takes mastery of the body to climb the staircase to Olympus

John Maria Gutierrez ascends

Illustration by Sasa Yung, screenshot by maura

—“To Stick it to Zeus.”

Our ephemeral Prometheus, dexterous, ascends to the heavens with godlike ease. John Maria Gutierrez. 

We stop along the way and consider, that is, we are asked to consider, “What are you searching for?” And again, this little grey field awaiting my reply sits vacant. Am I clever enough to participate? Am I aware enough to participate? Whether I am or am not, compelled by the generous offering to score this masterful work of metaphor with my own stardust consciousness, I say,

“I am searching for rest.” And like the breaching of a dam, my responses disgorge my subconscious: “I am searching for comfort, I am searching for recognition…” Ah! “I am searching for a remedy.”

Valois Mickens, John Maria Gutierrez, Mattie BB, Kim Savarino, Buffy (l-r), screenshot by maura

Moving together, our eyes and their bodies, we have created a spectacle— a spectacle of consideration, of deep inquiry. Both united and siloed, we ignite the wick of our souls in both these bodies of the present and the past — and in mythos. The material peculiarities of this telling of Prometheus, the Thief of Fire, of love, of passion, of light, of warmth, of death, of life hits like a parable that I will understand more as I age, the more I engage with my memory of this work. 

by Darvejon Jones, with maura nguyễn donohue

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