Prometheus Bound

Jackson Pollock: The

Michelangelo: The Creation of

    The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons

What is this Fire?
Chelsea Studio, New York: 2/12/97

Tim Rollins
Daniel Castillo
Emanuel Carvajal
Robert Branch

Tim: So, what is this fire - this fire that Prometheus steals away from Zeus and brings down to humanity?

Daniel: It's power. It's what leads to light ... makes everything so you can see it. It's the beginning of everything. It's that little spark that starts everything off.

Tim: Is it actually burning fire that Prometheus brings down hidden in a fennel stalk?

Emanuel: No. Some artists have shown it that way, but Aeschylus has Prometheus come down with burning coals - sparks.

Tim: O.K. So the spark leads to the fire that produces the light that is the beginning of everything. But is fire always creative?

Emanuel: It depends. It's creative when you use fire to warm your body or heat your home or cook your food or to weld something together. It's destructive when it escapes your control and burns your whole house down.

Tim: So you're saying that when fire is under control it's creative. But when it's out of control, it's destructive - it causes chaos, pain, destruction and - in the aftermath - dead silence.


Henry David Thoreau Georgia O'Keeffe:
    Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. I


Robert: In works inspired by the Prometheus myth - like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, even the Incredible Hulk - you see the potential that creative power has to be destructive.

Daniel: The fire of Prometheus represents ideas.

Tim: Ideas like, "Let's order a pizza?"

Daniel: No. I didn't mean those little sort of ideas. More like, " I've got an idea for inventing this new dish called 'pizza.' Creating something. That's power. That's knowledge. That's art.

Tim: In Henry David Thoreau's translation of the Prometheus, he has Aeschylus call the fire of Prometheus "that glowing flower".

Emanuel: I see it more as "luminous petals." They're beautiful - these sparks - even if they have the power to destroy.

Robert: Like the plume that a nuclear explosion makes ...

Tim: Why do you think Prometheus is being so cruelly punished?

Emanuel: Because Zeus and Power and Violence knew that owning the secret of fire made them superior to human beings.

Daniel: Maybe it was because they possessed fire and that made humans worship them. They figured that if Prometheus gave humanity fire, they'd probably forget all about Zeus. They'd stop being afraid of him and would start worshipping fire or even maybe gods of their own. Zeus and his gang would lose control.

Christian Schussele: Prometheus Bound


Robert: If humans could make something without Zeus, why do they need Zeus? Zeus wasn't all wrong. It is the power of creation that also creates weapons of mass destruction. If humans could replicate the power of Zeus, do they need Zeus?

Tim: What does Prometheus' predicament remind you of in our everyday lives?

Daniel: Parents!

Tim: Oh, come on ! Do you really think your parents deny you knowledge?

Daniel: Well, no ...

Emanuel: Schools try to light the fire but then they try to control the fire at the same time.

Daniel: The school system says its going to give us the fire, but sometimes I think they are just out for themselves.

Emanuel: Some teachers can't give you fire because they never had fire to give in the first place!

Tim: Maybe some educators want to be like Prometheus but they are so distant and separated from the lives of their students that the sparks have gone out by the time they come down to earth. Who are the gods who bring Prometheus to the rock?

Daniel: Power and Violence.
I'm really surprised that Violence is so quiet through the whole play. Violence is silent but deadly.

Robert: Like Clint Eastwood in "Magnum Force" or "Dirty Harry."

Daniel: On the other hand, Power is a big-mouth and he's really pissed-off. He taking his anger out on Prometheus big time, probably because Prometheus has a lot of qualities that Power doesn't.

Tim: Like?

Daniel: Knowledge. Mercy. Imagination. Caring.

Emanuel: Power isn't really very powerful without his girlfriend Violence. They are like agents for Zeus. Other translations call Power "Might" or "Force". I like the name "Force" better.

Daniel: Violence creates destruction, but that's it. She backs up Power. I bet Violence is jealous of Prometheus, too. And then Hephaistos enters the scene. He's Zeus' blacksmith and he's brought some heavy-duty, custom-made chains to hold Prometheus to the rock. Power and Violence aren't too fond of Hephaistos, either.

Joseph Kosuth: Titled (Art as Idea as

Gerhard Richter: Two Candles

Georges De La Tour: Joseph the

Tim: Maybe because both Hephaistos and Prometheus are makers. What's the Latin for 'to make'?

Emanuel: Artis ... Art.

Tim: Thank you! So throughout human history and culture, power and violence have always been the enemies of art and life.

Daniel: Prometheus and Hephaistos are like brothers ...They understand each other because they both do the same thing. They create. They're artists. They both know how to harness fire to make something new and good.

Tim: So, what is this fire?

Daniel: Creation, warmth, making.

Robert: Potential, possibility...

Emanuel: We want to create because we don't just want to sit back and take whatever someone else dishes out to us. We need to make something new... to make something out of our lives.

Daniel: I don't mean to brag, but we've got that gift of being able to draw and paint and make up things. We've got to use it because, well, it's a gift!

Robert: Prometheus suffers for giving us this gift ...and Hephaistos feels his pain because he realizes what a wonderful gift it is.

Tim: ... or a curse! There will be times when you will curse your gift.

Daniel: What? No, never. I don't think so.

Next Dialogue

Prometheus Bound