It all starts when everything breaks down…
For all of us, Vyrsodepseio was not just a space but also a cause; a locus of collective expression, a network of artists and citizens, a cradle of contemporary art, but also, ultimately, an open experiment answering the question: “How can we make art using collaborative management models?” Thanks to the dimen-sions of the space —over 3,000 square metres—, the new home of ODC Ensem-ble became a meeting point for hundreds of artists and activists; a vivid hub for exchanging ideas.
I managed Vyrsodepseio from 2011 to 2016, when it shut down, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new, equally creative period. During its active years, the prolific weekly program of Vyrsodepseio encompassed theatre, dance, and music performances, as well as festivals and educational workshops featuring a number of co-productions.
Over forty new theatrical and dance perfor-mances were staged, along with ten music festivals, annual platforms of drama and contemporary performing arts, two international site-specific festivals, and many programmes of international artistic exchanges and residencies. Special emphasis was given to international networking. ODC Ensemble collaborated with numerous international organisations, being a full member of the Trans Europe Halles (ΤΕΗ) and IETM networks and currently a partner in three Creative Europe programmes: Creative Lenses (2015-2019)1, Europe Grand Central (2016-2018), and Polar Circle (2017-2020).
Since its founding, Vyrsodepseio ran under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture; it should be noted, however, that it has never received any state funding whatsoever.
The New Map and ODC Ensemble
When any semblance of certainty vanishes due to the historical circumstances, a New Map reveals itself to the individual; a distant horizon, replete with obscure and thus far unheard-of interconnections between humanity and the ecosystem, emotions and weather phenomena, the most vulnerable person and the most powerful leader, poetics and reality. While time appears to be confined to a mer-ciless present that takes all our newfound strength to open time up to the future, this New Map depicts an expanded, infinite Universe, open to imagination and human potential. The New Map reveals to us fresh categories and connections across things, pushing our thinking and therefore our art into new, unfamiliar directions.
Co-founder Dimitris Kamarotos and I named ODC Ensemble after Homer’s Odyssey (Odyssey/ODC), marking adventurousness as one of ODC’s integral components. In 2011, though, thanks to the political reality and the launch of Vyrsodepseio, I radically shifted the orientation and aesthetics of ODC.
In the intersection between real life and our secret worlds, ODC Ensemble created outrageous and diverse work. Our unrefined and raw aesthetics clashed with the aesthetic imperatives of bourgeois, slick, flawless works of art. Instead, we chose to draw on the raw, fresh reality, on the violence and extremities that were manifest in the public sphere. The industrial space of Vyrsodepseio allowed us to do things that would normally be prohibited in conventional theatrical venues; we were now free to flood the entire foyer of the theatre with water, or to light Shakespeare’s Richard II exclusively by means of torchlights and real fire.
We gradually became more interested in the topography of the public space; the great, corporeal presence of the masses protesting in the streets led us to works of epic proportions and collective dramaturgies. As a collective, we investi-gated rehearsal techniques favouring pluralism and confrontation, convinced that it is not enough to tackle ‘political’ plays if the very process of rehearsals lacks freedom or encourages passive attitudes.
Since its formation, our Ensemble runs on an ‘open’ contract basis, in terms of commitment, beliefs, political musings, choice of performative spaces and pro-duction conditions. The new solid core of ODC Ensemble was shaped over time, consisting of composer Tilemachos Moussas, visual artist Pantelis Makkas, set designers Telis Karananos and Alexandra Siafkou, dramatist and actress Stella Raptit, lighting designer Olympia Mytilinaiou, photographer Alex Kat and actors Adrian Frieling, Valia Papachristou, Rosa Prodromou, and Anastasia Katsinavaki. For all of us, the members of the ODC Ensemble and Vyrsodepseio, the years of the crisis were years of hard work; a break with everything we had taken for granted.
It is a blessing to connect with people who dare go against the grain. This book is dedicated to all these restless spirits who, in the face of social fragmentation, con-ceive life in artistic terms and make art in life’s terms. Dedicated to all those eclectic artists and persevering craftsmen of life, thanking them for (still) being there for me, fellow travellers in this fortunately ongoing Odyssey…
Elli Papakonstantinou | Director & Artist Director of ODC Ensemble