adhesive vinyl installation for the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation celebrating the tenth anniversary of its founding
a trilogy of vinyl narratives on three floors of glass
based on Michael Cacoyannis’ cinematic adaptation of three tragedies by Euripides:
Electra (1962), The Trojan Women (1971), Iphigenia (1977)
Opening April 2022
Michael Cacoyannis Foundation 206, Piraeus St. Tavros 17778 Athens
Jim Cogswell, Vinyl Euripides
Jim Cogswell’s Vinyl Euripides is a public art installation for the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation in Athens, Greece, opening in April 2022. It is an architecturally scaled adhesive vinyl frieze on three floors of glass balustrades overlooking the central atrium of the Foundation’s Cultural Center.
The distinguished film, theater, and opera director Michael Cacoyannis (1922-2011) is best known in the United States for Stella (1955) and Zorba the Greek (1964). Cogswell’s installation will thematically build on Cacoyannis’ cinematic restaging of three plays by Euripides dealing with the Trojan War and its aftermath–Electra (1962), The Trojan Women (1971), and Iphigenia (1977). The Trojan Women dwells on the enslavement of the women of Troy after the destruction of their city. In Electra, the murder of victorious Agamemnon after his return from Troy unleashes a chain reaction of violent revenge.
Iphigenia explores the prequel to the war, Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter to expedite the sailing of his bloodthirsty invasion force.
Through this trilogy Cacoyannis addressed the turmoil in Greek society resulting from the brutal struggle for power in the decades after World War II. By following Cacoyannis’ adaptations Cogswell builds on a long tradition of restaging these narratives to examine the human suffering caused by war and the arrogant abuse of power, the vulnerability of migration and the misery of exile, dilemmas with direct analogues in the US and Europe today, and specifically in Greece, on the front lines of migration from brutal conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Cogswell’s public installations use digitally designed vinyl film to ornament architectural glass with mosaics of intricate images that speak directly to their architectural and social context. To construct the images for Vinyl Euripides he has hybridized fragments of objects and images from both the modern and the ancient world, many of them found in archaeological museums in Athens, repurposing historical artifacts and ancient narratives to address current dilemmas.
The frieze will be installed on more than sixty panels of glass balustrades on three floors in the heart of the building. The sequence of panels on each floor will be dedicated to a single film from the trilogy. This use of panels suggests film frames, and points to the cinematic origins of the narrative. The installation will be visible from the lobby below as a multi-level horizontal frieze, reminiscent of the carved reliefs running high around the inner chamber of a Greek temple.
Images on large courtyard windows on the main floor introduce Cacoyannis and Euripides as dominant forces in the narrative, linking the world of theater and cinema which are the focus of the Foundation’s mission. In the main floor lobby near that window a vintage cinema camera is installed on its tripod like a personification of the absent film director. Using archaeological fragments, that camera is recreated within the vinyl narrative, suggesting Cacoyannis’ presence as a character in his own filmic adaptations of these ancient dramas.
This trilogy of films and the tragedies on which they are based are specifically Greek stories and Cogswell’s vinyl narrative has the distinctive visual vocabulary of images from Greek vases. But what they tell us about the human condition is shared across time and geography. The bits and pieces of other centuries and cultures weaving their way through these stories are reminders of the grief and folly that we all share and that we are experiencing again during this moment in history.
Vinyl Euripides is made possible with funding from the Stamps School of Art & Design, the University of Michigan Office of Research, and the Modern Greek Program in the Department of Classical Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.
Jim Cogswell specially thanks the artist Margaret Couch Cogswell and Nikolas Katsivilakis, graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts, for their contribution to his project