Tonight I caught the second half of Scenes From An Execution for my lighting class. Based on what I saw and an one paragraph review I read, I gleaned the following plot:
The painter Galactia is commissionsed to produce a massive tribute to Venice’s victory in a military battle. She chooses, rather than glorifying the battle and the Venetian heroes of it, to produce a piece of art that depicts in massive detail the brutality and terror of war. Those who see her hundred foot long, thirty foot high masterpiece burst into tears at the monstrosity of it.
Why does Galactia do it? That I was not able to glean from the second act, but one could say she is sticking to her morals and her artistic self, or trying to make a point, or trying to differentiate herself as an artist, or maybe all three and more. She manages to anger both the state and the church, which both were responsible for waging the war of Christians against Muslims, and is eventually thrown into a dark, damp, disgusting jail cell to rot away her life.
Somewhere in this the relevent parties are persuaded to show the work, and in the end it is assimilated into Venetian culture, rationalized into the art world, and Galactia accepted as a celebrity.
Rather than sparking outrage or discussion or overthrow, Galactia’s painting becomes just another piece of art, and she herself just another artist. In the end she gives in completely to this defeat and goes to take her place in society.
For some reason immediately afterwards I was not saddened or depressed by the play, missing perhaps the significance of Galactia’s transformation and marvelling more at the accessibilty of this play at Brandeis (compared to others that frequently drive audiences away) and the lighting I had observed rather than the truth of the story, which conveys a timeless struggle of social and artistic outsider against an all-consuming society.
Since then, yes, I have become saddened by this. Specifically, I am applying this to my own life by looking at my routines and being disgusted that I am so normalized into the social fabric, that I do things every day and every week and have lots any sense of spontaneity or creativity. It is hard to get people to cut free from their routines and behaviors and just enjoy things on an emotional level. The everpresent repression of conformity is constantly at work against you,a nd it is impossible to ever truly be free, unique, individual.
Perhaps I did not at first see the sadness in the play because I did not at first think that societal influence is such a terrible, repressive thing. I still do not believe that. The benefits of society are such that we all chose to live within it. If Galactia was concerned only with being true to herself, then why try so hard to convince others of the rightness of her cause? Why be so worried about what others think and feel, why tie your own sense of self so strongly to their feelings and reactions?
We choose to live in society because of the many benefits it provides, not the least of which is the fundamental benefits of socialization, shared realities, shared thoughts and experiences. But we are never really wary enough of the many negatives of such a system, and we frequently sacrifice being true to ourselves in order to be more true to social norms. That is what makes me sad. We cannot break free, but we choose not to break free. But perhaps we need not grip so tightly, perhaps we can do just as well, better even, by holding on with just one hand.