Luka, the Brisbane-based Greek-Australian poet, will perform his new work, Agapi and Other Kinds of Love, at the National Museum of Australia.
His adaptation of Plato’s Symposium will have as its backdrop the Museum’s Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes – statues, objects and reliefs that date back thousands of years.
Luka derives transgressive pleasure from performing hip hop with cinematic new sounds from James Humberston of the Sydney Conservatorium.
“In a pristine place where culture is behind glass, I want to bring it all to life.
“The Museum sets up a stage in the atrium foyer for three nights [27, 28 and 29 April] we’re going to have a set with a big, beautiful backdrop inspired by ancient Greece, and the scene is inspired by the Exarhia riots in Athens during the 2008 economic crisis.”
In Plato’s Symposium, participants attempt to define love in all its forms. All but Socrates agree that erotic love between an older man and a younger man is more important than the love of a woman.
Alcibiades, the aristocratic and radical young lover of Socrates, arrives drunk at the Symposium. He begins to humiliate Socrates. In response, the older philosopher says that the only one who taught him the true meaning of love is a woman called Diotima, a prophetess.
“Socrates is the only one who refers to a woman and how she taught him the fullness of love, or agapi.”
Socrates raises a woman when loving a woman was considered less worthy than erotic love between men.
“I decided to just focus on that talk and that relationship, and not follow the Symposium verbatim, but use that association they had to extrapolate love into modern times.”
“I thought at one point that I might do a show of me and five other guys rapping Symposium, but I’m like old artists who would pick a moment and reinvent it, and I’ve fallen in love with some books recently that focus on female perspectives in ancient Greece and see it as a way to refocus on women.
“I deal with old texts, old ideas but give them contemporary delivery and twists – I use hip hop, spoken word, poetry and new music.”
In Agapi and Other Kinds of Love, Luka decided that Socrates and Diotima were in love, and that love should be represented by two young lovers hanging out in the inner suburb of modern Athens, Exarhia – the center of art and the protest of Athens.
Luka reflects on the Greek financial crisis and December 6, 2008, when cops shot and killed 15-year-old protester Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
“In my work, two young lovers, Pavlos and Sofia, are modern representations of Socrates and Diotima, they move towards the Areopagus, from where Socrates taught, on the Acropolis, and talk about love, then let Athens burn below.
“Socrates is talking about a woman he was in love with, like lovers Pavlos and Sofia in modern Athens, so we alternate between ancient and modern.”
Luka is an “old modern” and the marriage between old and new has been on his mind for a long time.
“When I was asked to play in the National Museum with all the ancient artifacts, I realized they weren’t ancient, but artifacts from a once-contemporary era.”
Luka worked on the connections between First Nations people and the Greeks, and realized that “our artifacts from ancient times were once everyday objects”.
“Those we consider ancient also speak of their own ancients – the Iliad and the Odyssey were ancient to them – these epic poems were over 1000 years older than classical Greece and were about people from the Bronze Age .”
Some time ago he wrote a poem called The Future Ancients, the idea being that one day in the future people “are going to think of us all as ancients”.
Luka asks, “So how do we act and how do we want to live with this in mind?”
Luka’s work on the chaos and burning of Athens in 2008 resembles Plato’s Banquet written seven years after the event. Alcibiades, Socrates’ young lover, led a revolt of aristocratic youth for which Socrates paid the ultimate price, death. Plato’s Symposium was written when things had calmed down in Athens. Luka’s work is also set several years after Greece’s financial collapse. Reuters just reported that “Greece is back on the good books”, and the financial markets are happy to lend Greece money, the arts are booming and things are looking up.
Luka is a poet and perhaps one of the poets Plato may have banned in his Theoretical Republic, where Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes were banished.
At the National Museum of Australia, athletes, warriors and heroes will have their old eyes fixed on Luka and his new symposium on Agapi, love.
For tickets and information, visit www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/ancient-greeks/agapi-and-other-kinds-of-love-performance