Ruth Barker

I Am Odysseus

2010
Sym-po-zeum / Jeffrey Room, Mitchell Library, Glasgow
I Am Odysseus I am Odysseus I Am Odysseus I Am Odysseus I Am Odysseus I Am Odysseus I Am Odysseus

Performance: Running Time 20 minutes approx. Garment design and production by Lesley Hepburn.

The text was memorised, and recited as a spoken word performance by the artist.

Photograph by Kendall Koppe, with many thanks. More images to follow.

 

I Am Odysseus was produced as part of the project (s˘m-po’ze-m) – ‘symposium’ – a one-day event and associated publication, composed by four female Glasgow-based artists (Ruth Barker, Kathryn Elkin, Martine Myrup, Sarah Tripp) and held within the stunning Jeffrey Room at the Mitchell Library. The artists developed installation and performance works, including sculpture, spoken word, and music. These works were distinctly authored by each artist but linked by a shared use of literature as a generative force. The event was framed by the Jeffrey Room‘s Edwardian Baroque interior, and structured around the natural cadences between their respective practices. The event was supported by a publication, produced in an edition of 1000, also titled (s˘m-po’ze-m).

 

(s˘m-po’ze-m) was an Open Glasgow project for Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Art. ‘Open Glasgow’ is a new initiative for Gi, which aims to discover ambitious and imaginative artists’ projects, conceived specifically for the city during Festival time. Funded by the Scottish Arts Council, projects for ‘Open Glasgow’ were selected through a open submission process by a panel consisting of; Katrina Brown, GI Director, Susanna Beaumont, Doggerfisher, Stephen Palmer, Scottish Arts Council and Polly Staple, Chisenhale Gallery.

Lesley Hepburn, who was commissioned to design and produced the garment worn by the artist for I Am Odysseus, has assisted in the conception of various collections for London Fashion Week, showcasing work in Vogue, Elle, and ID. She has worked with record companies producing apparel for recording artists including Marylin Manson. Hepburn has worked as a costume maker for Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, the BBC, and STV, as well as producing her own collections for outlets in Europe.

 

I Am Odysseus

SCRIPT

 

 

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

 

Me. Me. Me.

Me.    Me.

I am Odysseus.

I am a man.

I am humble and naked.

I am tired.

 

I am the greatest of them all. Help

Me. I am Odysseus.

 

Help me: I tell beautiful lies.

Help me: I spent ten years at Troy.

Help me: I’ve been ten years at sea.

Help me: I know rape and drowning and seduction. I know death and

Help me: I know homecoming.

 

Help me.

 

I am the only story ever told to you

Today

Tomorrow.

 

Help me.

 

I am the Preface saying:

Men after conflict are forever coming home.

To me.

Through me.

Believe me.

I am going home.

 

All I have to trade are the nine parts of my story.

All I have to trade are the nine parts of my journey.

To get here, beginning by

Saying that,

10 years ago

 

I sailed.

 

And in the distance I saw land and called:

Part 1

The Lotus Eaters.

 

We landed.

We landed.

We landed A.

We landed A. A. A.

 

And found some plants, flesh bloomed and scented. A.

Sitting on our lungs, our minds, like pollinated succubi.

Heavy, wet, and full of poisoned - A.

 

My men

Had:

Lotus in the hand, dreaming.

Lotus in the tongue, touching.

Lotus in the arm, sleeping.

Lotus in the fingers numbing.

Lotus in the lungs, perfuming.

Lotus in the knees singing.

Lotus in the belly, heaving.

Lotus in the legs, lusting.

Lotus in the groin, falling,

Lotus in the back, painting,

Lotus in the mind into colour, into form, into space, into reeling AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-

 

(Reeling). I sailed.

 

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw cliffs and called:

Part 2

The Cyclops Polyphemus.

 

We landed.

We landed.

We landed I.

We landed I, I, I.

 

I was there.

I was nobody, then.

I was nobody.

Nobody was in the cave,

Nobody was lying.

Nobody was stabbing.

Nobody was blinding.

Nobody was covered in eye-blood.

Nobody was tearing and gouging.

Nobody was in the dark.

Nobody was in the blackness. Nobody was there: I, I, I, I, I, I, I.

 

And I was Nobody

The greatest of them all.

Was Nobody.

 

(Nobody). I sailed.

 

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw a gift and called:

Part 3

The bag of wind.

 

We sailed.

We sailed.

We sailed U

We sailed U, U, U.

We sailed with the wind in our pockets.

 

An accident (a shame) and we were blown.

 

Away

Away

Away

Away

From home

From U.

 

Away

Away

Away

Away

From home

From U.

 

 

Away

Away

Away

Away

From home

From U.

 

Away

Away

Away

Away

From home

From U, U, U, U, U, U, U.

 

The sense of loss a swallowed stone

Intact. It weighs us down.

 

The sense of loss a swallowed stone

Intact. It weighs us down.

 

(Down) I sailed.

 

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw blood and called

Part 4

The Laestrygonians.

 

We landed.

We landed.

We landed Y

We landed Y. Y. Y.

 

There was blood on the sand. Y

There was blood on the soil Y

There was blood on the grass Y

There was blood on the rocks Y

There was blood on the trees, on the sky, on our words, on the faces of those we met. Y

There was blood on their minds.

 

Y: we were murdered and devoured like animals.

 

(Animals). I sailed.

 

 

  

And in the distance I saw song and called:

Part 5

The Isle of Circe.

 

We landed.

We landed.

We landed C.

We landed C. C. C.

 

I can sing you two songs. C. Two songs.

 

The first:

A song of lurid metamorphosis

Sings pigs and squealing pork,

Sing pig

Sing pig

Sing pig

Sing pig

Sing C.

C.C.

Sing: pink piggy death and bacon on our table;

 

OR

 

A second song, of human goddess lust,

And sex and domination.

Sing sing then pig death, bacon on our morning table.

 

Sing.

Sing.

Sing.

Sing.

Sing.

Sing Sing, the Isle of Circe sings. C.

 

(C). I sailed.

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw Hope and called:

Part 6

The Kingdom of the dead.

 

In

The Kingdom of the dead:

In speaking, there.

In thinking, there.

In darkness, there.

In fear,

In tenderness, there.

 

I said now,

Mother,

Mother,

Soldier,

Soldier,

Friend,

My friends.

 

So many dead.

 

And who am I?

I am Odysseus,

And crying.

 

(crying). I sailed.

 

 

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw waves and called

Part 7

The Sirens.

 

We sailed.

We sailed.

We sailed O.

We sailed O, O, O.

 

And I could hear the sirens.

Sirens,

Sirens,

Sirens

Calling O O O

Calling O O O

They called me O O O

They called me O O O

They called me O O O Odysseus.

 

My ears are open.

And I could hear the sirens

I could hear you, sirens

I could hear the sirens,

I could hear you, sirens

I could hear the sirens,

I could hear you, sirens,

You called me

You called me

You called me,

And I was tied.

 

You called me O O O O O

You called me O O O O O

You called me O O O O O

You called me O O O Odysseus.

 

(Odysseus). I sailed.

 

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw teeth and called

Part 8

The Scylla and Charybdis

 

We sailed.

We sailed.

We sailed V

We sailed V, V, V.

 

V between drowning and eating

V Between eating and swallowing

V Between swallowing and biting

 

V

 

Between living and dying

Between staying and moving

Between lying and speaking

Between fighting and waiting

 

V

 

Between a rock and a hard place, or

The shape

Between the devil

And the deep sea.

 

(Sea). I sailed.

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw gold and called

Part 9

The cattle of the sun.

 

We landed.

We landed.

We landed, Lo.

We landed, Lo, Lo, Lo.

 

To eat the sun cow.

Sun rising on an empty belly,

Makes that belly full alive, alive, lo.

 

A god, Lo.

God flesh beef. Lo.

A god.

Eaten. But

Never dying, Lo.

Never digesting.

Never breaking down.

Never coming undone.

 

A God

 

Never should be chewed,

Never should be swallowed,

Never should be shat out,

 

Never Never

Never Never

Never Never eat a god: Disgusting. Unholy.

 

Punished. Lo.

We would be punished.

 

Punished. Lo.

We should be punished.

 

(Punished). I sailed.

 

 

 

And in the distance I saw you and called:

 

You.

You.

You.

You.

You.

You.

You.

You.

All of you.

You are my Epilogue.

 

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

Help me.

Me.       Me.

Me. Me. Me.

I Am Odysseus

I am going home.