Jasmin Vardimon: Adapting “Medusa” Myth In The Liquid Modernity Age
Choreographer Jasmin Vardimon’s new show, Medusa, is a multiple and composite piece of art that is based entirely on the concept of transformation in its various meanings: transformation as metamorphosis, as Metamorphoses is also the title of the narrative poem by Latin author Ovid, who tells the story of Medusa, the Gorgon raped by Neptune/Poseidon and with the head full of snakes by the will of Minerva/Athena. According to the myth, the Gorgons had the power to petrify anyone who had crossed their eyes, and Medusa was the only sister who was not immortal. In most versions of the myth, she is beheaded by Perseus. But Medusa, with a further recall to the sea, is also the aquatic animal known in English as “jellyfish,” while in most European languages it is simply “Medusa.” Vardimon works on this double direction of the myth and the marine environment, reaching beyond the metamorphosis in stone due to the gaze of Medusa, to a very different kind of transformation: the problems of climate change and pollution. In this part, it is clear that the transformation, for Vardimon, is also of another kind: the catastrophe. The meaning of transformation moves from “Metamorphosis” to “catastrophe.” Considering the etymology of the Ancient Greek word, “catastrophe” is a ruinous and negative change and transformation.
The idea of transformation is therefore the engine of Medusa by Vardimon, who decides to work in a very precise dialectic between movement and stasis. Medusa, the mythical character, produces a transformation–dynamism–in stone and but the stone is itself symbol of stasis and stillness. Vardimon is very careful to grasp this dichotomy of dynamism-stasis, as it is evident from the beginning of the show. The static stage literally comes alive in its various parts–a boat, the plastic on the floor etc.–becoming at the same time a moving environment (a stormy sea), a character-environment (the animal “Medusa,” the jellyfish), then giving birth to the dancers themselves on stage.
In this way, Vardimon’s Medusa is a show with multiple signs, in which the index, symbols, and icons–in their semiotic meaning–intersect and are recreated by the choreography and use of the props. Three are the different structural levels can be recognized in Vardimon’s Medusa: a mythical level, since the viewer perceives what it is seen as something clearly ancestral, ancient; a contemporary level based on the use of reference to pop culture both from a sound and a visual point of view; finally, a critical-scientific level, albeit mediated by an artistic filter. The result is a post-modern and post-structuralist work, an adaptation of the myth of Medusa, a piece of art that criticizes the ideology in Slavoj Žižek’s way, but it is above all a work that stages the liquid society (or liquid modernity) as theorized by Zygmunt Bauman, precisely in this dichotomy between stasis and movement.
The article is an adaptation of the essay written by the author for Jasmin Vardimon’s Medusa program. The show premiered the September 13th at the Gulbenkian in Canterbury (UK).
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.