©Ovid’s Metamorphoses – The Broken Telephone Game
Ovid's Metamorphoses – a classic of world literature.
Ovid's world is both a quest for an origin and a history of the world as a continuous metamorphosis - but that’s not all there is to it: it is a world of metamorphoses through violence. Change is equated with male aggression and dominance. This very myth underlies our (Western) culture, has influenced our thinking, our imagination for thousands of years - nothing that is not permeated, inspired, infected by the myths: myths of violence correspond to the violence of the myth. Must this go on forever? Is the myth a virus that has infected us incurably? Or, is it possible that COVID is the counter-event to OVID, the pharmakon that immunizes us by infecting us in turn, promising an interruption of eternal recurrence?
It is possible, but maybe only in a game. In "real life", λόγος (logos) speaks even through our playfulness, we think stately even when we play, we as musicians, as ‘commanders,’ choose our instruments, over which we command just as we (think we) command music, art, speech. The wish to live free of myths is also a myth, a wish that is understandable, justified, authorized by the power of myth. That is why we play, why we have to play, why we dare to play this game, and we call it ©Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a game with many participants. In the game, we let Ovid's myths fade away within us. This metamorphosis, this fading out of the myths happens by way of the game of The Broken Telephone – it creates and designs series. It is about the interplay of infection and information, about information chains and sources of infection, and the series in which information or ‘meaning’ spreads, and it does so in spaces determined by us as curators.
The international participants come from the arts: from literature, music, video art, sound art and photography. They are the actors, but it is their practice that gives shape to the forces and makes them tangible: the real agents are the transmission channels. The transmission paths, the infection paths between the hosts, the artists, are more than just a structure, and the mutations that run across them in the process are the real creators; the artists, once infected, do "their thing" – the metamorphoses happen in transmission, and our project makes them audible, visible, tangible.
©Ovid's Metamorphoses creates series, it processes transformations in which what is said and meant is transformed through the media, text into image, image into sound, sound into thought, thought into form, form into substance and back again. The transformations are substantial, as in Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which mostly humans are transformed into a component of botanical, animal, mineral or astral nature.
Here is an example of a series:
Artist 0 receives a message, creates a text, sound, film, etc,, and gives it to Artist 1.
Artist 1 visualizes this in a picture or series of pictures (painted, photos)
Artist 2 reflects these into a video, movement, animation, tempo, duration, and sends this video to Artist 3 and Artist 4
Artist 3 creates a soundtrack/music for the video
Artist 4 creates a soundtrack/music for the video
Artist 5 receives both soundtracks, and picks them up to remix
Artist 6 receives the remix and describes the story this music tells her, the narrative, the time, the emotion, what touches her, what the sounds evoke, how it looks, how it feels, what symptoms it causes.
Artist 6 calls Artist 0 and gives her a detailed description of her symptoms on the phone. Artist 0 takes note of what has happened in between the ‘original’ message and the ‘end result.’
This is just one example of a possible series. Different series produce different symptoms or expressions. In this example, we are producing:
- text, sound, film etc
- 3 sound pieces
- 1 image / 1 image series
- 1 video
So, at the beginning of this series, there is an artist who receives a message and transforms it - metamorphosis. This is where the myth is written down, written with, written on, but this is also where it’s starting to fade away: this interstice creates a space for new myths, our myths, to resonate. At this moment of the game/project, this artist is patient zero – let ©Ovid’s Metamorphoses begin.
ATTENTION: According (and in parallel) to the 'security measures', there will also be restrictions for the 'metamorphoses' - as equivalents to the 'rules of social distance': 2m distance, mouth protection, washing hands, etc.
These conceptual ‘security measures’ of the project aim at limiting the scope of action, justified by the necessity to concentrate on an aspect of the event under investigation. However, it is important to understand not only the limiting but also the liberating character of such measures. With these ‘directional forces’ (Beuys), we can conceptualize experimental systems (Rheinberger) that narrow the view, but at the same time expand it.
Experimental systems are extremely tricky installations: they can be places of emergence, structures for capturing that which cannot be imagined otherwise. They are like spider webs, in which you might catch something that you can't quite know what it is or exactly when it's coming. Experimental systems are arrangements to constitute unforeseeable events: “generators of surprise” (Hoagland), or “machines for making the future” (Jacob, but see in particular Rheinberger).
The ‘metamorphoses’ should not take place on the ‘phenotype’ only, on the level of what’s obvious, on the surface, out in the open. It should intervene in the code of the respective ‘original,’ on the level of its DNA. Create variations, mutations, not thinly disguised imitations. Shapeshifters.
each project series will last the time of a quarantine – 14 days (which means each artist will have approx. 48h for her/his ‘slot’)
every artist has to adopt a self-chosen ‘safety measure’ (a voluntary restriction in his/her approach)
from infection to infection, we hope that antibodies can be created to counter the bad virus, so that at the end, some cure might be visible on the horizon …
every artist should keep a short log (e.g. at what time ‘infected,’ which safety measure taken, which antibodies formed, short description of your intention, etc), which is important for the documentation of the infection/counter-infection chain
when you send your counter|infection to the next patient, please send the piece (plus the log) to me as well
please work quick and concentrated (stick to your time slot), inspired and inspiring
don’t disrupt the infection chain
 We all know The Broken Telephone Game: a children’s game, a piece of cake!
During the game, the participants (the more the better) arrange themselves in a row or a circle. One player thinks up a message. This message is then whispered from mouth to ear from one participant to the respective neighbor. The fun of the game results from its resolution, where the last one in the row speaks out loudly what was whispered into the ear as the last message. The increasing falsification of the ‘original message’ can be documented by each participant repeating the understood message for all, which also increases the number of surprises.
In times of Corona this may not be played anymore – too little distance between mouth and ear!
This game is also known as ‘Chinese Whispers.’ Historians trace the European use of the word "Chinese" to describe "confusion" and "incomprehensibility" back to the earliest contacts between Europeans and the Chinese in the 17th century and attribute it to the Europeans' inability to understand China's culture and worldview. The rather racist use of the expression "Chinese Whispers" suggests the belief that the Chinese language itself is not understandable. Moreover, Chinese people have historically been stereotyped by Europeans as mysterious or inscrutable.
Now, in the era of COVID-19, all of this takes on additional significance as Trump viciously and insensitively dubbed it the ‘Chinese Virus’ … .