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The Timescape of Crisis on Jan Fabre’s Mount Olympus

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Solakidi, Sylvia. “The Timespace of Crisis on Jan Fabre’s ‘Mount Olympus’.” Global Performance Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 2020, https://doi.org/10.33303/gpsv3n2a8

Sylvia Solakidi

University of Surrey

For Λ

There is a mountain in Greece, the highest mountain of this country, which is called Olympus. In the ancient times, this mountain was believed to be sacred, and myths identified it with the residence of the twelve gods, the almighty rulers of the world, according to the ancient Greek religion. Access to humans was forbidden, and gods were kept away from sight thanks to clouds that covered the mountaintop, their mountaintop. They were immortal and spent their time shaping the fate of mortals — they had time on their hands. Climbers, though, have subsequently reached the top of Mount Olympus numerous times. The first of them arrived at the highest peak in 1913, and they have verified that there is nothing hidden there — no gods; it is just another mountain. Still, this mountain is irrevocably connected to myths about gods and myths about humans who were children of gods, kings and queens or heroes, whose fate was decided by the gods; myths of immortality and eternity as well as myths of mortality and finitude trying to make sense of life and death, asking the existential questions of a mortal’s position and role in space and time.

On 26-27 June 2015, Belgian artist Jan Fabre summoned his performing arts company Troubleyn for a twenty-four-hour climbing expedition to a certain “Mount Olympus” on a theatre stage in Berlin. The international climbing team, twenty-seven performers on stage as well as backstage staff and Fabre’s assistants and collaborators,[1] had various levels of experience, with performers belonging to three generations, being more or less familiar with his stage. They had all gone through intensive training for a year in his laboratorium in Antwerp and had become a cohesive team. Among others, Fabre trains his company with a series of exercises that he has been developing through the four decades of his theatre practice (Cassiers, et al.). These performers read Greek tragedies and were also trained through encounters with philosophers and theatre scholars. For their expedition they had carefully selected their provisions: meat, laurel trees, colour and glitter, grapes, chains, furs, white bed linen from which they made their clothes, sleeping bags, eight tables, thirty-three hanging lights, a big screen. These were the main elements of the stage set. They had also planned ahead the duration of each stage of the expedition, comfort breaks, sleeping intervals, meals. They also had maps with them, guiding them through the stages of their climbing; these were the text by Jeroen Olyslaegers, which elaborates on ancient Greek myths, while based loosely on the texts of Greek tragedies, and Fabre’s poems of insomnia. They had also taken care of communications with the world outside this “Mount Olympus,” through internet access and their social media accounts. The space of the expedition was the Haus der Berliner Festspiele; not only its stage, but also the foyer and the backyard, since the climbing team asked for support from audience that also spent twenty-four hours in the space of the expedition. We (yes, I was among them) were provided with a detailed time plan of the duration of Chapters and Scenes, food, hygiene facilities, internet connection, space to camp and sleep; we needed rest, the same as the climbers on stage, but our intervals were self-decided. A climbing expedition, though, has no intervals; climbers are always on the mountain, whether they are moving or not, whether retreating in its valleys or moving towards its tops. The fluctuation of attention of the audience also corresponds to the peaks and valleys of a mountain. Fabre, the leader of the climbing team, was at the sound control, together with his assistants. At 16:00 they began: “Let’s climb this mountain!” — this is how climbers/performers prompted each other and us climbers/spectators, through their social media accounts; whether on stage or in stalls, in the venue or in the foyer or the garden, we all climbed “this mountain.” The expedition’s full title was: Mount Olympus: To Glorify the Cult of Tragedy (A 24-Hour Performance).

Performers on stage formed a mixed female and male chorus that performed repetitive actions with or without words, they represented dream scenes, they danced by copying movements depicted on ancient Greek vases, they dressed and made themselves up like warriors, they decorated each other with flowers and laurels, they tried to move while covered with yoghurt, a sign that they were cursed by the gods. They were ready to speak the monologues of mythical characters like Oedipus and Jocasta, Hecuba and Odysseus, Pentheus and Agave, Phaedra and Hippolytus, Antigone and Tiresias, Electra and Orestes, Hercules and Megara, Medea and Jason, Agamemnon, Clytaemnestra, Iphigenia and Cassandra. They slept and dreamed in sleeping bags on stage during the three “Dreamtimes” of the piece, the time allocated not for an interval but for dreams, and they woke up from the reciting of Fabre’s poems. And they were always alert, ready for the call of Dionysos, the leader of their expedition on stage, in order to become his Bacchae or his Maenads. These actions were organized into the Beginning and the fourteen Chapters of the piece, bearing the names of mythical characters as their titles, and they continued for twenty-four hours. Fabre is a visual artist, a theatre director, a choreographer, a performance artist that has never had any formal training in either theatre or dance, and is among the renovators of postdramatic theatre. He is a master of duration and repetition, he has the human body at the centre of his research and art, and he has been creating durational theatre performances since the 1980s. His second piece, This is theatre like it was to be expected and foreseen (1982) was eight hours long, though he writes in his diary that he had wished to make a twenty-four-hour performance (134), while his third piece, The Power of Theatrical Madness (1984) was four-and-a-half hours long. Mount Olympus feels like a kind of Noah’s Arch of his oeuvre so far, an arch with all the basic themes of his art: time as a material, the potential of physicality and representation, his poetic view upon physical struggle, death and new beginnings, creativity of the night, the tragic and its cathartic effect.

No Greek tragedy takes place on Mount Olympus. Tragedies are enacted in front of palaces or temples in cities, the centres of the socio-political life. Berlin is such a city, but contemporary Berlin is a multi-cultural, multi-national city; the audience of Mount Olympus did not have the ties of the community of an ancient Greek city-state that tragedies were specifically addressing (Fabre and Olyslaegers 40). No Olympian gods are present in the piece. The only god, who is also leading the climbers on stage, is Dionysos; he has his own mountain, though, Cithaeron, where he brings his disciples, the Bacchae, for their orgiastic rituals. No mountain is represented on stage. Why is this theatre piece called Mount Olympus? And why is it a climbing expedition according to its performers? Those are the questions that drive this essay. They are accompanied by another one, corresponding to the expedition’s subtitle. How is it possible to glorify the cult of tragedy through a piece approached as a climbing expedition, although it neither follows the form and structure of Greek tragedies nor does it reiterate excerpts from them?

There is no mountain represented on stage, but there is a “mountain” that performers and audience have to climb; it is the twenty-four-hour time span. By climbing, they attempt to relate to this “mountain,” instead of submitting themselves to time and fate imposed by the gods of measurable time. Time, though, is never isolated either from space or from the relationships among the climbing team. This essay tells the story of Mount Olympus as a climbing expedition to a certain “Mount Olympus,” and it is weaved around three aspects of the mountain: the parameter of space corresponding to the geographical mountain in Greece, the parameter of social relationships corresponding to the mountain as a goal of a climbing expedition, and the parameter of time corresponding to the myths that have been charging the geographical mountain with meanings. In Mount Olympus, the spatial, geographical aspect of the mountain is transformed into the dramaturgy of the piece, the relational aspect of the climbing team is transformed into performance on stage and assistance from audience, and the temporal aspect of the mythical mountain is transformed into the temporality of Fabre’s stage. Climbing requires careful planning and preparation, as well as perfect coordination among the climbing team, so that accidents and fatalities may be avoided and the goal of the expedition may be achieved. The creative period of this piece was long, and the rehearsals lasted for almost a year. Fabre, however, offered the role of the leader on stage to Dionysos, the god who repeats the word “madness” numerous times in the piece. He begins his first monologue almost half an hour within the piece by saying, “I gave them just a tiny bit of madness” (Fabre and Olyslaegers 61), and in his last monologue, just a few minutes before the end, he states “truth is madness” (329). Though carefully planned, a climbing expedition can be related to madness: the “mad” idea of climbing a mountain is needed in order to start preparing; faith is needed that the “climbing” of a twenty-four-hour performance can be achieved. Dionysos’ madness has the potential to transform any ritual into a ritual of theatre; he may transform the ritual of climbing as well, into the ritual of a twenty-four-hour performance.

Fabre does not train his performers in order to “become someone else,” a character developed on stage during a performance, but “something else” (Roussel, et al. 45). This story of Mount Olympus as a climbing expedition aims at identifying this “something else” with the transformation of physical and mythical aspects of the mountain into a timescape, a place of time, where engagement with temporality is possible thanks to relations with space, time, and among the members of the climbing team. It is a term borrowed from social theories of time (Adam), which refers to complex temporal flows and to an intersection of space and time as a way of understanding the meaning of events.Performers and audience shape and inhabit this timescape by transforming their agency into its spatial, temporal, and relational aspects. Catharsis is the cult of tragedy related to the liminal character of the timescape, which, as it will be demonstrated, corresponds to crisis.

This story of Mount Olympus as a climbing expedition is told by someone whose single experience with climbing is having attended this twenty-four-hour performance. As a side-effect of my lifelong phobia of heights, I have never approached a mountain and I miss the point of view “from a vertical world” (Price 43). A phobia is irrational, there is no reason for it; or is there? The writer’s provisions are her experience from the climbing expedition in Berlin and a few months later in Bruges, where she attended another performance of Mount Olympus, and the philosophy of being-in-the-world of phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, according to which humans, as embodied subjects, cannot exist but within the world (Phenomenology of Perception plxxvii) — after all, there are no intervals during the climbing expedition. Embodied subjects are not allowed a gaze from outside of the world and, as a result, they cannot fully control the world and their existence. This does not mean that they are submitted to the power of the world without any agency either, since their bodies are the agents that interact with aspects of the world and they enjoy situated freedom, conditioned by their existential spatiotemporal position in-the-world (467).

The writer has in her provisions the notion of transgression as well, which, according to Hans-Thies Lehmann, is the “figuration of the tragic” as “a movement of passing beyond” (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 5, 43). In order to “climb” this “Mount Olympus” of the expedition the writer pairs the notion of transgression with the madness of Dionysos that she experienced during the performance; the madness of Dionysos is the expression of the tragic in the piece. The timescape’s parameter of space is explored through Lehmann’s textual landscape of postdramatic theatre: thanks to transgression of their own confines when led by the madness of Dionysos, the bodies of performers on stage transform the textual landscape into a landscape of time materialized into their own bodies. Relationships among members of the climbing team are based on the tasks that they perform and are explored through the idea of the taskscape, developed by anthropologist Tim Ingold: the dwelling of the landscape of time becomes possible thanks to transgression of personal rhythms towards the rhythms of the climbing team. The re-enactment of myths of Greek tragedy and Fabre’s own theatrical past that corresponds to the timescape’s parameter of time, is explored through Antonin Artaud’s texts about his encounter with the Mexican tribe of the Tarahumaras, pointing out to transgression towards diverse temporal moments. Finally, one of the myths of Fabre’s oeuvre, the myth of Prometheus, establishes the timescape as a site of liminal existence and agency. The timescape of transgression is related to crisis in tragedy and in the contemporary world through the notion of catharsis as elaborated by philosopher Alexander Nehamas.

Let’s climb this mountain! And let’s begin from its geographical aspect.

“Mountains of Flesh”

This mountain, “Mount Olympus” of the climbing expedition, is defined by its materiality. As it is the case with all mountains, including the geographical Mount Olympus in Greece, a mountain’s materiality comprises a dynamic ecosystem with inorganic and organic aspects, the rocks, the fauna and the flora, the water, and the way these diverse elements interact with each other and are influenced by weather conditions (Pitches 6). The materiality of the ecosystem is transformed into the materiality of the dramaturgy of the piece across the Beginning and its fourteen Chapters, which makes Mount Olympus “a postdramatic theatre of tragedy,” according to Lehmann (Fabre and Olyslaegers 338). In the past, Lehmann had remarked in postdramatic theatre, the transformation of text, of logos of theatre, into a “textual landscape” (“From Logos to Landscape” 59); the transformation of logos into space. In Mount Olympus, this “non-logocentric view” leads to a “visual dramaturgy” in which images created on stage become the main agent of theatricality, and “the theatrical situation opens the possibility of communication and production of meaning” through these images (55, 59). Logos is neither eliminated nor underrated, but its dynamic potential is revealed by the way the words of myths are transformed into theatre images, into a landscape that performers may dwell and climb.

Pentheus creates such a landscape during his monologue in Chapter Four. In this chapter, entitled “Dionysos’ Bacchae,” scenes of ritual and ecstasy are performed by Maenads, monologues by Pentheus, Agave and Dionysos are included, while the first “Dreamtime” takes place near the end (Fabre and Olyslaegers 127-148). When Pentheus states his determination to end the cult of Dionysos in Thebes, he repeats numerous times and for several minutes the phrase “so that I can put an end to this madness” (131); he speaks, he sings, he shouts, he laughs, he wheezes this phrase, while performers behind him enact this madness further. Madness, the leitmotiv of Dionysos, fills the whole stage; it is not just a word anymore, as both reflective and pre-reflective meanings of it are addressed. Pentheus and performers createa landscape of madness reinvented with every single repetition. The climbing team has to climb madness; this is what this dramaturgy of textual landscape suggests. It is not just the idea of climbing the mountain that is mad, neither is the faith that performing for twenty-four hours may be possible. Madness is the method that Dionysos suggests so that the climbers may proceed with their expedition. This is a method of transgression; madness as transgression is the expression of the tragic in this piece. For Lehmann, Fabre’s theatre is a “tragedy of transgression” (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 429). Taking the form of a “gesture” and a “movement” (5), madness as transgression is the driving force that moves the bodies of performers on stage, so that they may create the theatre images of the visual dramaturgy. Mount Olympus is a “postdramatic theatre of tragedy” because the postdramatic element of the textual landscape becomes a landscape of transgression, a landscape that is the figuration of the tragic.

The etymology of the “landscape” corresponds to a way of shaping land (OED); this way of expressing space is as dynamic as the ecosystem of the geographical mountain. The way dramaturgy shapes the space of “Mount Olympus” is through the frame of twenty-four hours, a day and a night; the textual landscape as the space of “Mount Olympus” is made of time. Olyslaeger’s textual adaptation of myths included in Greek tragedies, the element of logos in the piece, is transformed into the landscape of “Mount Olympus”, which is a landscape of time. This dramaturgy becomes “a postdramatic theatre of tragedy,” which instead of focusing on the structural elements of Greek tragedy, it reworks its existential elements by an interplay of space and time. Merleau-Ponty borrows the articulation of the main existential questions from Paul Claudel: “where am I?” and “what time is it?” (Visible and the Invisible 103). The dramaturgy asks those vital questions. The twenty-four-hour time span, the abstract time measured by the mechanical clock, is materialized into bodies that speak and create images on stage, like the body of Pentheus; these bodies enact the twenty-four-hour time span and offer their materiality to time. The dynamic ecosystem is adapted by the dramaturgy into a landscape of madness that deprives the twenty-four-hour time span from its abstraction.

The landscape of the twenty-four hours of madness does not exist outside the bodies that shape it. These bodies are the agents that inhabit the world of “Mount Olympus” and cannot create it ex nihilo, as stated in the ontology of being-in-the-world of Merleau-Ponty. Ten minutes within the piece, before the first monologue of Dionysos, Bacchae enter the stage dancing. A mixed female and male chorus having their breasts and their genitals covered with strips of white bed linen start their orgiastic dance in the presence of Dionysos, their leader. These white bed linens have red spots from blood because within them pieces of real meat are hidden; kilos of meat were included in the provisions of the climbing team. While the Bacchae dance, these pieces of meat fall on the stage. As they breathe out, pieces of meat like portions of the flesh of their own bodies that bleed, end on the stage, and shape the land of “Mount Olympus”; this is their agency and the way they relate to the twenty-four-hour time span. The Bacchae chorus becomes the twenty-four-hour landscape of madness that they are about to climb; the madness of repetition is the tragic element, the transgression of the confines of their own bodies.

Although Dionysos’ rituals take place on Mount Cithaeron, the climbers do not climb Cithaeron. The only words repeated during the music piece that they dance are “Mount Olympus.” As their dancing bodies are gradually disintegrated and the stage is covered by pieces of meat, their bodies are transformed into the stage. Transgression takes place, this landscape acquires the materiality of their bodies, and so does time; they temporalize time through their flesh. These “mountains of flesh,” mentioned by Dionysos in his monologue following shortly after Pentheus’ monologue in Chapter Four (Fabre and Olyslaegers 141), shape the twenty-four-hour land of the landscape of “Mount Olympus” as another mountain of flesh. Through their dance, their bodies take literally part in “the flesh of the world.” This flesh is not the actual flesh of the body but an existential element of Merleau-Ponty’s late ontology, which translates being-in-the-world as the existential condition according to which the embodied subject is both open towardsthe world and of the world. Performers/climbers are open towards the stage of “Mount Olympus” by offering their flesh to it, and are of the stage, since they can only exist within the expedition that does not have any intervals; performers become a moment or a node in the “flesh of the world” (Merleau-Ponty, Visible and the Invisible 147). The “flesh of the world” is the existential aspect of transgression. This flesh allows reversible relationships as sensing/sensed, which never lead to fusion of the two poles, since there is always a divergence or spacing (135). As a result, performers are still individuals, their bodies are not completely disintegrated, and they are fused neither with the stage nor with each other. Since reversibility also exists between the senses, namely between touch (of the actual corporeal flesh) and vision, spectators also participate in the “flesh of the world” through their gazes.

The bodies of performers and audience become the “something else” that Fabre asks from them, namely thismountain that we all climb; the climbing team and their audience develop an existential relationship with time through space and are identified with their expedition goal, the “Mount Olympus.” The answer to the existential question “where am I?” is not “I am on the mountain” but “I become the mountain.” This identification is the parameter of space in Fabre’s “something else,” which in this essay is approached as “the timescape”; it is the transgression in the landscape of madness of Mount Olympus. They do not only climb a mountain but they climb their own bodies, since their bodies have been transformed into the goal of their expedition. This is part of their situated freedom, since they cannot escape these bodies and their agency, and as a result, they cannot escape “Mount Olympus” either. Mountains are supposed to be immortal, like the twelve gods, but this mountain is made of mortal flesh and finitude as materiality of the twenty-four-hour time span. The way these “mountains of flesh” shape the twenty-four hours through their own flesh corresponds to the relational aspect of the mountain. Let’s climb this mountain!

The Mountainscape

This mountain, “Mount Olympus,” is defined by the relationships that performers/climbers develop with it during the climbing expedition. Mountains are supposed to be eternal, but those who attempt a relationship with them interact with their dynamic elements; only from a distance do mountains seem to be unchanging (Pitches 4). “Mount Olympus” is both “there,” as the remote goal of the exhibition and “here,” since the climbers become the mountain that they climb, and the mountain is made of the same material as their mortal bodies. For climbers, the mountain is not only a space but also the time they have with it. The question of space, “where is the mountain?”, is transformed into “when is the mountain?”, referring to the time of experience of it. This is particularly true for this mountain, whose space is transformed into a dramaturgy of twenty-four hours. This time span becomes the canvas of the climbers’ relationship with “Mount Olympus,” whereas the paths of the dramaturgy suggest ways of interacting with the mountain. These paths are opened with the aim to perform “an attack on time,” as the expedition is defined by guest dramaturg Luk van den Dries (https://mountolympus.be). This is an attack of mortality on immortality, not with the aim of conquering the mountain to gain immortality but in order to relate to time as humans can, through the finitude of their flesh. Climbing is a durational expedition, like a performance of twenty-four hours, and is connected to failure (Pitches 3). Climbers fail to conquer the mountain and performers fail to take full command on time, since they are in-the-world of the mountain and cannot shape either the mountain or the twenty-four hours of its dramaturgy from outside as sovereign subjects; they can relate to it, though. Physicality and mortality of the flesh are challenged by the mountain, whereas they are a way to relate to it; the reasons of “failure” are the ways to succeed. For Lehmann, Fabre’s “tragedy of transgression” proceeds through “the merciless exposition of the human body,” when mortality is shared between performers and audience (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 430).

The mortal flesh driven by the madness of Dionysos makes transgression happen, as “mountains of flesh” are breathing out their own flesh that quits the confines of their bodies and ends up on the stage. Breathing is challenging for climbers because of the difference in atmospheric pressure; difficult breathing is challenging for the climbers’ own flesh. The most important aspect of Fabre’s guidelines for performers is a specific way of breathing (Cassiers, et al. 277). Performers climb the “mountain of flesh” by performing a series of repetitive, demanding tasks, for which breathing is crucial. The tasks comprising the ritual of climbing are transformed on stage into rituals with tasks that re-interpret the existential struggle of humans narrated in myths; the madness of Dionysos transforms the climbers’ rituals into rituals of theatre. These tasks may lead to exhaustion and occasionally to failure, with performers needing to catch their breath, but the aim is not the torture of performers. As it is the case with violence in the myths, which does not aim to destroy those who encounter them but to make them aware of aspects of human life, such tasks are used on Fabre’s stage as ways towards performers’ transformation into “something else.” “Mountains of flesh” are mentioned by Dionysos after Pentheus’ flesh is torn apart by Bacchae. The flesh of “Mount Olympus,” as a mountain of flesh, is the flesh of the climbers who are alive and struggle for their tasks and also the flesh of those who are killed. Performers/Climbers get prepared through this ritual violence, since they have to face the difficulties of climbing and attacking time. Their endurance is tested, and through sweat and fatigue they try to change themselves and change their point of view upon the world where they are situated; to change the conditions of their situated freedom through their vulnerable physicality. The vertical mountain offers a different point of view upon the world; the expedition to “Mount Olympus” becomes the condition of a relationship with the twenty-four-hour time span.

As performers/climbers move, they shape with their bodies the mountain, as well as the twenty-four-hour time span. They measure the twenty-four hours through these tasks; they have time in their moving bodies, challenging the sovereign twelve gods who had time on their hands. While gods were the creators of time and fate, climbers do not create the twenty-four hours, but they shape their fate by dancing through them; the landscape of time is shaped through their tasks. Ingold, who is influenced by Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, adopts such “a dwelling perspective on the landscape” through movement (152). “Mount Olympus” is a landscape corresponding to a story approached through embodied knowledge, like the story of Pentheus and Bacchae and the flesh that is torn apart during orgiastic dance and murder. Performers/Climbers are dynamic nodes shaped by the relationships that they develop with the landscape. Ingold defines the pattern of dwelling activities and their rhythmic interactions as the “taskscape.” Although tasks are challenging, performers manage to change their point of view and achieve freedom. This freedom is situated, since they neither conquer the landscape of time nor are they overwhelmed by it. The taskscape, which for Ingold is the temporality of the landscape, the way the question of “where is the mountain?” is transformed into “when is the mountain?”, is a way of existing according to the mountain; the expedition to “Mount Olympus” is not a burden but a way of being-in-the-world, a way of existence. Their agency in time, their attack on time, is their taskscape, which is conditioned by the measured time of the twenty-four hours.

They are a team, though, a climbing team and a theatre company, and spectators become members of this team as well. Exhausting tasks are almost never performed individually. Deep into the night, in Chapter Seven entitled “Hercules,” comprising war dances and monologues of Megara, Hercules, and Jocasta (Fabre and Olyslaegers 187-204), performers are divided into two groups, and they use a chain as a rope in a rope-pulling game. Winning this game becomes crucial, and they use their own bodies for making their side of the “rope” heavier, they hang themselves from the chain-rope, they recite a war song about “the pain that hurts the most” (Fabre and Olyslaegers 189), they scream it, their breathing becomes difficult, as they struggle to win the battle. It is not just a game, it is the existential battle for gaining agency upon time, it is the climbing of “Mount Olympus.” In this scene, the exposition of vulnerable physicality proceeds through another element that Lehmann attributes to Fabre’s “tragedy of transgression”; it is the “affective athleticism” that Artaud, one of Fabre’s major influences, demands from actors to exhibit in his “Theatre of Cruelty” (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 420); this “affective athleticism” is a way to perform the “mad” attack on time.

The performance of tasks, the way to transform the “where is the mountain?” into “when is the mountain?” is a way to ask Merleau-Ponty’s existential question “what time is it?” This question, though, which is related to “where am I?”, as the landscape is transformed into a taskscape, is not asked by the embodied subject who is in-the-world but by a group of embodied subjects; they are asking together. As it is the case with the rope-pulling scene, the taskscape is rather defined by the relationships among performers and the two groups that compete than by each performer’s movement; each one of them relates to the landscape of time with others. Among Ingold’s principle influences is the notion of “operational sequences” proposed by anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan in his book Gesture and Speech. They refer to cultural transformations and social acts involved in the development of technological tools, and they raise “the problem of relationship between the individual and the society” (230); the taskscape does not correspond to the dwelling activities of a single person. The answer to the question “when is the mountain?” becomes “when climbing it with others.” Breathing with others while performing tasks gives a rhythm to the expedition; physicality gives the rhythm, even when breathing becomes difficult. This simple, non-voluntary task that no one thinks about when people are healthy or in non-challenging environments and non-strenuous conditions gives the rhythm towards the beginning of something new: “breathe, just breathe, and imagine something new” are the final lines of the piece (Fabre and Olyslaegers 331), the beginning of a new expedition and the development of a new kind of agency upon time. The relationships among climbers who are breathing their tasks together are transformed into their attack on time, the relationship with the landscape of time, their ways of climbing “Mount Olympus” by using the paths of dramaturgy; their taskscape becomes the mountainscape.

Not all tasks are physically demanding but are equally important for the climbing expedition because they allow performers to connect with their own body rhythms. In Chapter Two, entitled “Hecuba and Odysseus,” which comprises monologues and scenes of grief as well as dances, a confrontation of Hecuba and Odysseus and a dream of Odysseus, the scene “Washing of the Heart” is performed. Almost two hours within the piece, a group of performers bring cautiously out of their white bed linen costumes, their hearts — in the meat provisions, hearts are also included. They show them to the audience, they put them tenderly in a container with water and start washing them, while a soprano sings a capella the aria “addio del passato,” the aria about nostalgia for love and acceptance of fate from La Traviata. They take care of their own heartbeat, their own rhythms that, as the aria suggests, beat their emotions. Demanding tasks help them connect to their emotions, and this is the reason why they do not kill them but they transform them, instead; emotions trigger transgression. They practice Merleau-Ponty’s notion of self-affection, which refers to the subject’s relationship with time as a relationship that is not one of causality and is never fully accomplished (Phenomenology of Perception 448-450).

This self-affection, though, is practiced in a group; everyone is there, even Dionysos, whose heart is a bunch of grapes. In order to dwell the landscape, they have to dwell their own bodies first. The rhythm of the mountainscape is the way their own rhythms are adopted into relationships with the other members of the climbing team. It is the transgression of one’s own rhythm of self-affection towards the rhythms of the team, which characterizes the element of “flesh” in the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty. He refers to the temporality of the ontological condition of the “flesh of the world” by defining “the fabric of experience” as “flesh of time” (Visible and the Invisible 111). Both performers and spectators participate in this “flesh of time,” which transforms the abstract twenty-four-hour time span into the experience of climbing the landscape, namely the mountainscape. The rhythms of performers and audience become the “something else” that Fabre asks from them; this mountain is not the one that we climb, but the relationships developed with others through the tasks that we perform. This identification is the parameter of sociality in Fabre’s “something else,” which in this essay is approached as “the timescape”; it is the transgression performed by the rhythms of the “mad” flesh that has set out for an impossible expedition, since it has the potential for transgression. The landscape, which is the parameter of space, is transformed into the mountainscape, which is the parameter of sociality of “the timescape.” The climbing team and their assistants, the audience, engage themselves into an existential relationship with time through the agency that they acquire when relating to each other; they weave the fabric of time. The answer to the question “what time is it?” is not “the time when we climb the mountain” but “the rhythm of the mountain, which is our rhythm”; the answer is given in plural, since the existential questions are asked by the climbing team.

The “Washing of the Heart” scene comes after a scene of despair, when performers were imploring gods to relieve them and they screamed “take me!” The past of giving up is left behind and performers go on; they have almost twenty-two hours left until the end of their expedition. But is it possible to leave the past behind, to say “addio del passato?” The story of this taskscape/mountainscape is the way that the story of myths included in tragedies is transformed into the story of the expedition. The weaving of the story of the mountainscape corresponds to the temporal aspect of the mountain. Let’s climb this mountain!

“The Mountain of Signs”

This mountain, “Mount Olympus,” is defined by the story of the expedition. Stories are also associated with the geographical Greek mountain; stories of climbers, stories of scientists who have studied its ecosystem, stories of bandits, stories of soldiers fighting for freedom, stories of locals for whom the mountain was part of their everyday life, stories of ancient myths. All these stories charge it with meaning and temporalize its alleged eternity. Mortal performers climb “Mount Olympus” in order to temporalize the immortality of gods. Fabre has chosen the mythical past of the mountain as a way to claim agency upon time; the attack on time takes place through the enactment of myths. Besides physical tasks, for which breathing is crucial, the climbing team have to perform yet another kind of task, and breathing is important for it too; they have to breathe the stories of myths. On Fabre’s stage physicality has the first role in telling stories as well, as performers “talk theatre from every orifice of the body” (Fabre Journal 160). Since this “postdramatic theatre of tragedy” takes distance from logocentrism, language becomes an expression of physicality and is not only related to logos and rationality. As Merleau-Ponty claims, speech is a “genuine gesture” (Phenomenology of Perception 189), a way through which embodied subjects exert their agency in-the-world. Breathing, which is at the core of Fabre’s guidelines for performers, becomes the link between the pre-reflective way of shaping the mountain through physicality and its rhythms and the reflective one, through retelling stories. These myths were weaved by mortals in order to make sense of their fate that was weaved by gods and, in a way, they refer to previous attempts to climb this mountain, namely to claim agency upon time. Like the mountain, myths are not eternal, either. They are weaved differently each time they are retold. In the postdramatic dramaturgy of Mount Olympus, which does not underrate words, the stress falls on breathing them, so that both pre-reflective and reflective sense may be made.

Ancient myths are not the only stories retold during this expedition. Repetition is an important aspect in the temporality of Fabre’s theatre (Fabre Journal 34-35), with several motives repeated differently on his stage throughout the years. Numerous motives are reprised in Mount Olympus, such as Fabre’s solo Window Performance of 1977, when the young artist performed naked in a shop window in Antwerp (Cellant 43). This performance is transformed into “Male Power,” the second scene of Mount Olympus, when a male performer repeats an action from Fabre’s performance alone, in silence, in the middle of the stage, just before the entrance of Dionysos and his Bacchae chorus (Fabre and Olyslaegers 58). This is a moment of “caesura,” of interruption, when Mount Olympus opens up to an element of Fabre’s own artistic history and, in particular, to an element not from theatre but from performance art. This caesura (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 140), the fact that theatre opens up to something that is not theatre, is for Lehmann an aspect of tragic experience, a way that transgression takes place as a “power of rupture” (61). Fabre is, among others, a performance artist but he never performs on theatre stage. He nourishes, though, his stage not only with images from his performance art but also with the experience he acquired by performing these works (van den Dries 66). Indeed, his exercises for performers are largely based on experience of repetition of myths from Fabre’s own stage. His own myths become the way to reprise/retell the ancient myths, since they provide with several motives of repetitive, demanding tasks through which the violence and the poetry of myths are re-enacted. The climbing team need to climb a “Mount Olympus” combining myths of human existence and theatre’s existence; they attack time and claim their agency upon fate by repeating the fate of repetition of Fabre’s theatre — the myths of Fabre’s stage are included among the provisions of the climbing team. “Mount Olympus” is an existential mountain comprising myths about diverse aspects of temporal experience. In the climbing team participate some of Fabre’s oldest on- and offstage collaborators, who are familiar with his theatre since the early 1980s, as well as several younger performers who had already participated in 2012 in re-enactments of Fabre’s seminal pieces of the 1980s, This is theatre like it was expected and foreseen and The Power of Theatrical Madness. Among the audience are spectators who have been watching Fabre’s theatre since decades (as far as I could overhear). As a result, the climbing team “fell into an already prepared nature,” that of “Mount Olympus” of familiar ancient myths and myths of Fabre’s theatre, which are re-enacted.

The notion of “prepared nature” belongs to Artaud (Anthology 69) and is included in his text “The Mountain of Signs,” written after a journey to the land of the Tarahumaras in Mexico. As a result of observing that the mountain had carved human figures on its rocks, Artaud wrote about an interaction between bodies and landscape, which has also been demonstrated for “Mount Olympus”; this mountain is a mountain of signs as well, with stories of myths instead of figures being “carved” on its “rocks.” This is the materiality of its dramaturgy. The gestural aspect of language has transformed the logos of myths into images re-enacted by the climbing team through the myths of Fabre’s own theatre images. This is another way of existing vertically, by relating to various temporal moments. Thus, the question “where is the mountain?” becomes “when is the mountain?” in another way as well, referring to myths adapted by performers towards a new enactment. Artaud observes that the signs of the mountain are copied in rituals of the Tarahumaras. These myths/signs are also copied/repeated on “Mount Olympus” by the climbing team that breathes them. Artaud feels his own body to be a part of this landscape as well. He is not a member of the Tarahumaras, the tribe that make sense of their lives through the carvings on their mountain rocks. The mountain is not his mountain; he is the spectator. But as it is also the case with “Mount Olympus,” audience assist the climbing team. Shortly before the end, the orgiastic dance of the Bacchae is reprised. This time, performers are covered with liquid colours and glitter, as all the “provisions” of the team have already ended on the stage; they form a thick layer on it, the soil of this mountain. This time, spectators are standing and dancing in stalls; it seems that after twenty-four hours they feel, like Artaud, that their bodies are part of “Mount Olympus.”

Ancient myths trying to make sense of human existence and Fabre’s myths trying to make sense of theatre’s repetitive existence are the ways in which climbers engage themselves into an existential relationship with time and approach the existential question of “what time is it?” As time is attacked, fate weaved by gods is attacked. But the climbers’ real fate is shaped by those myths. They are the past that cannot be left behind; no “addio del passato” is possible. The story of the mountainscape is weaved through re-enactment of myths that transform it into a signscape. By enacting the myths, performers are not transformed into mythical heroes but into the “something else” that Fabre asks from them. Their bodies, which have earlier been identified with the materiality of “Mount Olympus,” are the “rocks” of the mountain where the existential quest for agency on time and fate is carved through their embodiment of theatrical repetition, the way myths are enacted on Fabre’s stage. The bodies of performers bear the materiality of time, since they have embodied the temporality of repetition. This identification of bodies with time is the temporal parameter in Fabre’s “something else,” which in this essay is approached as “the timescape.” The story of the climbing expedition is not told linearly but through repetitions; time escapes the horizontal relationships between past-present-future and acquires verticality, like the mountain. The temporality of repetition is the answer to the question “what time is it?”, the expression of the landscape of madness into which the twenty-four-hour time span is transformed; the landscape of the parameter of space of “the timescape” was transformed into the mountainscape of the parameter of social relationships and now is transformed into the signscape of the parameter of time. The transgression is expressed in the way the “mad” temporality of repetition transgresses the linear, horizontal relationships among timepoints. Stories enacted are not about the mountain but are rather this mountain of the expedition. After the end of the twenty-four hours, climbers return in order to start again somewhere else, some other time. Each new expedition/performance of the piece repeats differently the stories of the signscape of previous expeditions/performances; like the re-enactment of these stories that I perform by weaving a story about this mountain. Let’s climb this mountain again!

The BIC-Ballpoint Blue Mountaintop

No tragedy takes place on Olympus. However, there is a tragedy that takes place on another mountain, Caucasus. When climbing the mountain again, differently, “Mount Olympus” becomes temporarily Mount Caucasus, where “a man’s body being tortured on a rockface” can be found, reminding of the figure that Artaud saw carved on the mountain of the Tarahumaras (Anthology 69). He could be Prometheus, a titan, who dared to steal fire from gods and offer it to humans and was punished, bound to Caucasus; it happens when you enable humans to acquire agency over fate. Existing in an eternal, liminal situation between life and death, with his liver being devoured and regenerated every twenty-four hours. Prometheus is in crisis for his life, he is “burnt” from the fire that he stole, and the world spins around him; all the elements of the tragedy Prometheus bound function according to him. It is a world in crisis around the bound man who dared to shape fate. This myth is absent from Mount Olympus. The twenty-four-hour time span, though, the gesture of Prometheus and the liminality as crisis define “Mount Olympus”; its landscape/mountainscape/signscape of time correspond to a Prometheus Landscape.

Fabre reworked for the stage the tragedy Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus under the titles Prometheus Landscape I (1988) and Prometheus Landscape II (2011), pointing to the transformation of Prometheus into a landscape, as it has also been suggested about the climbers of “Mount Olympus.” In his 8mm film I, Prometheus who provides his own drawing material (1980), which is projected on a loop, a hand scratching a match is shown. As the matchstick is about to be completely burnt, the film loops, so that it seems that more matches are continuously burnt and the flame of the first match can be preserved (Cellant 31). By devouring the material that keeps it alive, the flame is in a way devouring itself as well. As soon as the fire of a matchstick is out, its burnt tip can be used as drawing material, as a self-made pencil. When Fabre’s Prometheus is “burnt,” the drawing material is BIC-ballpoint blue. Prometheus Landscape I was presented in a room whose walls and floor were covered by BIC-ballpoint blue drawings (Fabre, Le Palais 51-53). This is Fabre’s favourite colour since the late 1970s. He makes drawings using this industrial colour, which for him corresponds to the liminality of “the blue hour,” the moment of silence in the first morning hours when nocturnal animals go to sleep and diurnal animals are not yet awake (Fabre and Bekkers 28); his piece was presented in the early morning hours. In Prometheus Landscape II, although Prometheus is bound, immobile and silent at the centre of the stage, he is the source of all flames, which are generated centrifugally from his suffering body and light the stage where his landscape is drawn with fire. In both versions of the piece, Prometheus seems to create his landscape by using the energy of his suffering body; he becomes the landscape on which he is bound, as he creates his own signs on his mountain of signs. These signs are a way of passing the flame that he stole. For Fabre, the main Promethean task is that of passing the flame, enabling others towards the transformative agency upon their fate and time, as he demonstrates in The Man Who Gives Fire, his sculptural self-portrait from 1999 depicting a man who protects the flame of a lighter with his body and raincoat.

Prometheus passed the flame to the climbers of Mount Olympus, whose expedition is to carry out a Promethean task, since they “steal” time from gods in order to claim agency upon their fate; like fire, this agency may change the fate of humans. As a result, they become the landscape/mountainscape/signscape of their expedition, as Prometheus became his liminal landscape of the blue hour. Climbers who reached the tops of Olympus in Greece did not find any gods. When climbers reached the top of “Mount Olympus,” though, the response to the existential question “what time is it?” could be “the time of the blue hour.” In the late 1980s Fabre created a series of works entitled Mountaintops. He intervened on photographs depicting famous mountains (Olympus was not among them) by painting their tops in BIC-blue colour; he transformed the space of mountaintops into the temporality of the blue hour. Although he had not shot the photographs himself, he made his mark on these photographed mountains. Such works can be seen in the trailer of Mount Olympus and on the website that documents the creative process. The mountaintop of “Mount Olympus” is blue, the colour of liminality of existence.

Gods used to hide fire until Prometheus made it visible to humans; clouds used to hide the rulers of human fate until the climbers of “Mount Olympus” made this mountaintop visible as the blue hour. The mountain of gods, theirmountain, does not belong to climbers; they cannot have full command upon time, the same as Fabre does not take his own photographic shots of mountains, but they may make their mark on it and make their agency visible through this sign. There is a price, though, for acquiring this agency upon their fate. As it is the case with Prometheus, they need to exist in the blue hour of liminality; this is the condition of the new situated freedom they acquired when they changed their point-of-view upon the world and chose for the existence in a vertical world, where time and space intertwine. The liminality of the blue hour is made possible thanks to repetitions in Fabre’s theatre both as repetitive tasks and repetitions of motives across his oeuvre. The liminality of repetition culminates in the fact that, as it happens with Prometheus whose drama is repeated every twenty-four hours, the climbing expedition is designed to be repeated. The climbers and their audience set out for an expedition lasting a day and a night in order to experience the blue hour at the moment of transition of the night into the day. What is made visible at the end of the piece is that the whole twenty-four-hour time span of this expedition corresponds to the liminality of the blue hour; this liminality is the transgression.

The climbing team embrace this existential liminality of repetition. As it has already been demonstrated, they become the landscape of time that they climb, they offer their rhythms to the mountain and they embody the temporality of repetition when engaging themselves with myths. Their agency upon time and fate is transformed into the parameters of space, relations and time of the landscape/mountainscape/signscape of “Mount Olympus”; it becomes their mountain as they shape the fate of their expedition through their experience. This expedition aims towards a liminal agency upon time and fate, for them and their spectators to whom these heirs of Prometheus pass the flame. The existential engagement with time that the climbing team achieves by becoming the spatial (landscape), relational (mountainscape), and temporal (signscape) aspect of their expedition, is a way to transform “Mount Olympus” into a liminal existence of dynamic repetition, a timescape, which according to its etymology is a site for shaping time. The Promethean task of the climbing team is to transform the abstract, measured time span of twenty-four hours into a site of dynamism and agency, where twenty-four hours become the blue hour. The climbing team become this blue hour by embracing its liminality of repetition and as a result they exert their agency as a timescape. The timescape is the “something else” into which Fabre asks his performers to transform themselves; it expresses the transgression.

Liminality is existential for Prometheus as he is bound on his mountain, but punishment creates for him and others in his landscape a time of crisis. Liminality is existential for the climbing team as well, but the condition of their situated freedom is the twenty-four-hour time span into which the physical mountain is transformed. The geographical and mythical aspects of “Mount Olympus” allow the climbing team not to lock their timescape in the theatre venue after the end of the performance, and connects them to the world outside the venue; this is another example of the tragic caesura, the opening up of theatre towards what is not theatre. The only stage that has literally offered the climbing team this opportunity is the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, where they gave their third performance in October 2015. Thessaloniki is a city in Northern Greece from which the geographical Mount Olympus is visible; after the performance, Fabre and his company walked in the mountain area.

No climber stays on the mountain; only casualties are buried there. However, the return to this world where they began from coincides with the beginning of their expedition. The first scene of the piece begins with the phrase “bad tidings, ill wind blowing” and continues, “nature will show its force, the time has come for us to pay.” These phrases do not correspond to any Greek tragedy but were written by Olyslaegers as a response to the contemporary crisis of climate change. Thanks to the geographical and mythical aspects of “Mount Olympus,” the timescape of liminality becomes a timescape of contemporary crisis; it is the site where time of crisis is shaped. Dionysos is right in his final monologue: “and even that, I can assure you, it’s just the beginning” (Fabre and Olyslaegers 330). This is the “mad” truth to which Dionysos refers to just before this phrase; the piece is called Mount Olympus because it offers both the climbing process for shaping time from a liminal point of view and the opportunity to continue shaping it after this expedition is over; Mount Olympus performs the transgression. The world of “Mount Olympus” is a world in crisis, a world in urgency, as framed by its Beginning and by one of Fabre’s poems that is heard in Chapter Four. By stating “I live at a time when there is a solution for every problem” (147), he calls for a different approach to contemporary crisis. The community to which Fabre’s “postdramatic theatre of tragedy” is addressed does not have the ties of the ancient community of the Greek city-state to which tragedy was addressed; they are all, though, citizens of the contemporary world of crisis, and their diverse lives in the different cities of the world where the piece was presented, are all connected to the urgency of crisis. In Thessaloniki the connection between the piece and crisis was evident; Fabre brought his extremely expensive performance to this city in the midst of the Greek economic crisis without receiving payment. When he was asked why he did that, he replied that he wanted to contemplate Olympus (Lifoteam); hismountain exists within and outside theatre venues, and this is the mystery to which, he, the leader of the climbing expedition, needs to connect.

During Fabre’s aforementioned long poem, the phrase “I have it on the tip of my tongue,” the liminal situation before articulation, is repeated. How is it possible to bring together “timescape” and “crisis?” There is a paradox here, since the timescape is supposed to be a site of existential engagement with time and not the time of crisis when agency is challenged. Referring to Prometheus Landscape II, van den Dries states that Fabre’s theatre is in search of the tragic dimension and catharsis (Fluxum). The landscape is connected to the tragic, which cannot be reduced to psychology. The body of Prometheus is immobilized in a landscape representing “the battlefield of civilization,” which Prometheus inaugurated by bringing the fire. The search for the tragic, van den Dries concludes, coincides with the reflection on civilization by exploring the fate of fire in the hands of humans; fire can kill or cure. A few years after this piece, whose text was also written by Olyslaegers and himself, Fabre stages Mount Olympus as a way to glorify the cult of tragedy. The way of glorification is the approach to the paradox as a mystery that is not solved but experienced through catharsis. Catharsis is the way that the time of crisis can be shaped within the timescape of Mount Olympus.

Catharsis has not been defined clearly by Aristotle. For Nehamas, the medical explanation of the term, according to which the Greek word “pathèmata,” referring to pity and fear in Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, is translated as “emotions” and catharsis becomes a medication given by theatre in order to purify and cure pity and fear, is debatable. Based on Aristotle’s references to catharsis in Poetics and Rhetoric, he connects “pathèmata” with the word “praxis” at the beginning of the definition of tragedy, and he claims that they correspond to “incidents of the drama itself” (307). As a result, he defines catharsis primarily as resolution rather than purification, although he notes that purification accompanies it, since resolutions of tragedy are never ethically neutral (307). Nehamas rewrites the final phrase of the definition of tragedy as: “carrying such incidents to their appropriate resolution” (308). Therefore, liminality and crisis become incidents of the drama; they can be carried to a resolution, namely to catharsis, since this definition deals with the tension among such incidents. Fabre’s focus on vulnerable physicality shows, according to Lehmann, that catharsis is for him “a physical process — both in performers and spectators” (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 430). The resolution that brings together liminality and crisis in the timescape of Mount Olympus takes place through the tasks performed on stage, during the “climbing” of “Mount Olympus”; this resolution, the catharsis, makes transgression possible.

Gramsci defines crisis as the condition when “the old is dying and the new cannot be born” (275-276). Waking up from sleep feels like a new birth. The liminality of the blue hour is based on the power of transformation that takes place in the transition from sleep to awakening; it is a time of transgression. Crisis, on the other hand, is the time of waiting, when time is in suspension. Fabre aims his performers and audience to “learn through suffering” (van den Dries 319). Suffering, though is not the end in his work but a means towards transformation into “something else.” The liminality of the timescape, which has been identified with the “something else” of Fabre’s guidelines for performers, is the site where catharsis as resolution of the conflicting incidents may take place; a resolution, though, that respects the tension and does not eliminate it. It is not a solution to a problem, as Fabre denies in his aforementioned poem, but the acceptance of the mystery. Like fire, this mystery may either kill or cure; it is not a medication that can eliminate tensions. The mystery of living in times of crisis by experiencing liminality through transformation may not be a soothing medication but a poison; for Lehmann, the effect of beauty on Fabre’s stage is the “aesthetic of poisoning” (Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre 430). And then, as Olyslaegers states in the opening scene of Mount Olympus, “disease will hit the city before dawn breaks” (58); the blue hour, before dawn breaks, may become “theatre’s poison, injected into the social body,” as Artaud claims in his text “The Theatre and the Plague” (Theatre and its Double 31). Fabre adopts this point of view upon catharsis (van den Dries 309), according to which “theatre is a crisis which is resolved by death or cure” (Theatre and its Double 31). The blue hour and the fire of Prometheus in Prometheus Landscape Iand II, the madness as the truth of Dionysos which shapes the timescape of Mount Olympus, are expressions of theatre in times of crisis. In such times, theatre is like a plague, as Artaud suggests, because it is the revelation of “latent cruelty” (30), which is “the fault not of the plague nor of the theatre, but a fault of life” (31). Mount Olympus does not isolate performers and audience for twenty-four hours, it does not quarantine them from the plague. It approaches contemporary crisis as a mystery, instead, and attacks the time of crisis and the suggested solutions to this problem, through catharsis. Catharsis is its own suggested way of resolution, which accepts the tension of the conflict and living according to it, as climbers exist according to the mountain. This is the way that the cult of tragedy, its cathartic effect, is glorified by the climbing team; this is the ineffable that Fabre has “on the tip of his tongue.”

This story of Mount Olympus as a climbing expedition is a quest for making sense of times of crisis, both existential and historical, a way of repeating differently the experience of assisting the climbing team as a member of the audience, in order to explore the potential of shaping a liminal timescape; it is a story of crisis. It is a quest for the ineffable element of Fabre’s work, the one that connects performers and audience with what they do not dare to articulate. Crisis is not impossible to cope with; it is not imposed as an unbearable burden; it is living in liminality that we cannot bear. But the liminal timescape can become the site for shaping the time of crisis. Liminality seems risky and dangerous, not because there is real danger but because it is living at the edge; at the edge of the cliff while climbing, at the edge of language while writing. Anything may happen and this is scary. How can I live at the edge of the cliff of writing if I am afraid of heights? It is liminality that my phobia refers to. It is not irrational, it is my unwillingness to accept life as cure and death, my unwillingness to accept writing as cure and death; or at least it was. The mountain is high and unpredictable, and climbing expeditions are linked to impossibility; they run the risk of failure. It is easier to claim that climbing is forbidden, rather than hesitated because of unwillingness to live. It is easier to claim that time is fate, and fate is in the hands of others, unreachable, unbeatable. It is easier to claim that crisis is a dead end and the contemporary fate is shaped by the gods of neoliberalism; such a strange survival of fatality in the contemporary world. “Olympus” is the name for what becomes a sacred taboo in order not to be touched. But there are sects that dare to shape rituals and establish a cult, like the one from Antwerp, Jan Fabre’s Troubleyn, and “with the tip of the tongue attack every imaginable or real enemy and tear them into pieces with love,” as Fabre’s poem ends (Fabre and Olyslaegers 148). It was thanks to the “mad” decision for the impossible expedition, the leadership of Dionysos and the faith of the climbing team, that transgression was made possible — in fact, “Troubleyn” means “remain faithful.” A performance of twenty-four hours seems to be an impossible venture; but, you see, it is not. Claiming agency upon fate seems to be an impossible venture; but, you see, it is not. Climbing a mountain when you have phobia of heights seems to be an impossible venture; but, you see, it is not.

Let’s climb this mountain!

Acknowledgement

The author receives funding from the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership

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[1] Information about the creative process from the Mount Olympus database: https://mountolympus.be

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