After visiting the stage play of “Bakchen” at the Vienna Burgtheater the other day some questions arose for me what I actually had been watching. Later I saw a claim from a tourism ad, “Enjoy culture!”. The latter always gives me a shiver. In German “Kultur genießen” amalgamises art and culture in a way to make them synonimous. Wrong.
Do we need to “enjoy” culture – or art? Of course, tourism comercials try to be nice, appealing and seduce people with a lot of sugar coat promises. Forget about it. Let’s dig to the core of stuff.
Euripides, who wrote the Βάκχαι [Bakchai] the year preceding his death as part of a trilogy won a prize in a drama competition in 405 B.C. More than twothousandfivehundred years ago. The text presented at the Burgtheater was in German and speckled with some other texts which weren’t credited in the program book as far as I could see. So what was I actually listening to? Some of the surviving greek (“old greek”) texts are from handwritten books of the Renaissance. More striking to me is the fact that I will never understand what the original ment to the “old greek fellows”. I sense the incredible cruelty of the mind behind the texts, an expression of – yes! – a culture delving in bloody gruesome fantasies. More than that I fear those greeks drawing amusement, a from of humor, from these shows in which people and animals are slaughtered and torn appart, spilling blood n’ guts all over. A voyeuristic spectacle the Romans later adopted for their shows with gladiators in the colosseum and alike. Ripping people apart seems to be a strange, attavistic combination of anatomy and entertainment. The gruel event makes people laugh, maybe to collectively get rid of the horror they are actually witnessing. Right, the greek had some intellectual conundrum build into it, like a overly talkative porno, whereas moving westwards to Rome, – and later to Spain, the producers of those shows let go of the talking part and got right to the hot action. The spanish “corrida” is a pornographic event in this sense, deprived of any narrative content and just focusing on the physical action and combat. I am honestly not up to neither the spanish version, nor would I probabely to the Roman gladiator’s fights. The greek drama tells me a lot of rationales why things happen and sort-of justifying the upcoming bloodspill. Come on: catharsis, that is just another sort-of justification of something societies of the west tried to get rid of in the last thousand years. “Eastern” societies are different in this case as the cruelty seems to level in perfection to the techniques of meditation and combat. Holistic world views unify cruelty with peacefulness, too, stupid.
We westerners try to outsource, analyse and specialise all these aspects of life. And see what we get? I feel urged to estimate a drama from 2500 years ago I don’t understand, neither the language nor the culture nor the action. WTF.