Ink is the title of Dimitris Papaioannou's latest show. We arrived last but not least to reflect on this "pas de deux in black" signed by the famous Greek choreographer-director-visual artist, and hopefully not in vain. Everybody already knows that this duet passed and coproduced by “TorinoDanza” e by “Aperto” Festival in Reggio Emilia - in which Papaioannou shares the scene with the young Šuka Horn - it’s a sort of sample of a show that - Covid-19 permitting - will debut in Athens, in December, with a larger number of male performers selected all over the world. It seems to us, however, that Ink is relevant in itself and already the spokesperson for a turning point in the Greek artist's research that can be confirmed or denied.
This turn is immediately perceived at the beginning in his presentation on stage, in his restless face when from a bent position he turns among the pouring rain that lashes the entire pièce to the end. Leaning over, Dimitris scans the stage and catches an octopus which he carries with him and then throws to the ground. In this way, he is more than ever far from the "master of ceremony" of his previous shows and chef-d'oeuvre (Primal Matter, Still Life, but also the installation Sysiphus-Trans-Form). Above all, he appears devoid of that hybris, that almost arrogant mastery in exhibiting his precise knowledge of how to move on stage, and what actions he would have followed others. Here Dimitris seems, at least to us, to be surprised at himself: immersed in an inner, doubtful, and dreamlike state.
Within the space wrapped in freely wavy black curtains, even his casual costume - shirt and trousers - bears no resemblance to the stiff suits that also referred to the interpreters of The Great Tamer and Seit Sie / Since She (the show created with the Tanztheater Wuppertal in homage to Pina Bausch) to a Greek folk dance iconography. In Ink, Dimitris is an "ordinary" man who flaunts what we did not yet know about him: a fragility that is not afraid to show itself as such in the various water games with a pump that he maneuvers to one side of the scene, sometimes not without a certain hindrance (perhaps disappeared at the second Reggio Emilia debut), increasing the volume of water that invades the stage. His obsessive and repetitive action remains that of filling a bowl of water, and first of rotating the heap of contents that comes out with one arm, creating magical circles of light. Then he sits down, or rather lies down, almost asleep on a stool also placed at the side of the stage, until, under the bridge, a strange “frog” approaches him and urges him to get up, but in a flash, it is gone. In reality, it moves almost under his feet, and it is voluminous: Dimitris follows its path, discovers its young naked and human features; he tries to block its movement on the ground with his hands which, however, slide on the transparent stage axis. Finally, he desperately manages to take possession of the new creature that has entered his real or dream world, - it does not matter -, making him stand up and enclosing him within the transparent almost cone-shaped stage axis, tightening him strongly with his belt. The image is at least as memorable as that of the jet of water that, escaping from the barrel, reaches his head, as if it came out of his brain, creating a ... “thought of water”.
Up to here, please, let's leave aside the myth so much circulates everywhere in the pièce since as Mircea Eliade writes "the myth is not the opposite of reality, it is, first of all, a story whose function is to reveal how something happened to the human being". Papaioannou knows well the ancient myths, “the old stories”, as Eliade would say, but he tells new stories in which existential archetypes are traceable, here as never before, in our opinion, connected to the world of dreams, to the psychology of the depths. So much so that savoring the image of the choreographer-director lying and sleeping on his stool and almost woken up or urged by an alien creature, we even recall in our choreutic memory a romantic archetype: that of La Sylphide, with her James asleep and awakened by a being impalpable, elusive, the fruit of the desire of those who evoked it in a dream.
A pinch of romanticism circulates, in our opinion, in Ink and it is not a small novelty in Papaioannou's poetics. It would have been interesting to be able to look more closely at the two protagonists divided by the transparent stage axis: the primate grimaces of the struggling young man, the amazement of his partner when he admires his body finally stretched out and calmed and places the octopus on his pudenda, even succeeding to lure him to himself with a rope attached to his board. The primate, or young naked child, sits down, drinks from the refilled bowl, above all welcomes another silver, shiny bowl. But it is not this, that rising upside down like an acrobat finds himself between the buttocks. It is the transparent bowl from which he drank and from which Dimitris now sits under the acrobat. The result is, maybe, a sexual hug that ends with the two bodies lying close together. But it is only a respite. This time the young man undertakes to wedge his companion into his transparent plate and blocks his wrestling with a great yellow light that illuminates his bust and his face. Then he takes the silver bowl, and oplà disappears in an instant, leaving his partner with the octopus in his hands, throwing it on the ground, and then rearranging the scene as if nothing happened. And instead here come from the bottom so many rotating lights; having opened the curtain like a music hall's one, Papaioannou finds his shiny bowl and places it back on the string where it originally was.
Suddenly a short initiation process begins, maternal rather than paternal, with the washing of a pair of panties, immediately worn by the young man who reappeared; then as a parent does with their child, the ball/bowl is thrown to the ground, and the "child" begins to emulate the adult's way of moving. Playful and brief moments, before yet another disappearance. An effect of water smoke that rises to the sky and makes everything hazy, distracts the attention from the entrance of a bush of almost withered ears. The naked young man hides inside and shows himself holding threads of withered branches between his teeth. Stealthily the alleged or so-called "parent" sneakily stretches out in front of the bush against the light. He is thus observed by the young man who with, his facial gestures, incites him, and finally divides the bush in two. That an octopus-child emerges was perhaps intuitive, but that the adult Dimitris cradles this double creature like a real mother is the surprise of surprises.
In the end the monstrous octopus-child is thrown away; on a table, backstage, the young ex-primate launches himself into new stunts, hits the adult, and he too is beaten. He gains attention by bouncing on a table like a winner and, gloating in a cone of light, disappears, while in the front-stage the adult returns alone. Visibly disturbed and perhaps irritated, he only has to knock that octopus to the ground over and over again: an evil premonition of the Janua Inferi, that is, one of the two solstitial passages (summer here towards winter), guided, according to the Roman tradition by Janus, divinity double-faced with two keys, one gold, and the other silver. But so we return if not to myths to symbols, and we sink even more thanks to René Guénon. The Scholar of Traditional Sciences and the symbolic, ritual and methodological heritage of the spiritual habits of the East and the West glimpses in the passage of the two solstices, from which the Sun changes course and goes back, "the meeting of sky and water ";" the representation of the two half parts of the cosmic egg that go to form the sphere, emblem of the primordial androgyne and of the animated void: the Kàos ". In the darkness in which Ink lives, perhaps associated with the winter solstice, the six summer months have already passed; the fresh branches have withered; and even if we don't see it, the octopus secretes, now as always, its ink like a disturbing sperm and “other”.
Ink, therefore, dripping with even esoteric references, offers itself to many readings, deliberately stumbles into the symbols and unintentionally in the myth. For us, in the perspective of Mircea Eliade, he tells what happened to Dimitris Papaioannou in the months of the lockdown and how he managed to turn his encounter with the young, good and tempting Šuka Horn, into something special, but not without dramatic hesitations, especially at the beginning where you read a not knowing what to do that perhaps springs from the experience all inner and personal of the artist. After all, this is the first time that the artist reveals himself in his dreams, in his deep psychology. He, always so far from returning banal forms of the sacred and the profane, and immersed in the history of myths as archetypes of the community, which are also his "themes" now sinks into his "I": dreams, desires, loves as a companion, mother, father, all together on some excerpts of Vivaldi music and songs just hinted in the background. A sulfurous turning point, vaguely romantic, and not of little importance.