Prometheus Bound

Robert Branch and Tim Rollins with a student in Utrecht

Otto Peine: Fire (Red and Black on White)
Curtis Mayfield)

Utrecht School of the Arts,
Utrecht, The Netherlands, 9/9/97

Tim Rollins
Robert Branch

and students from the Center for Intercultural Studies (Nelly van der Geest, Coordinator, Center for Intercultural Studies) and the Teachers Training Department (Til Groenendijk)

From September 8th to the 12th, 1997, Rollins and K.O.S. member Robert Branch were invited to conduct a workshop and seminar with over sixty student teachers from the Utrecht School of the Arts in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Armed with a Dutch translation of "Prometheus Bound" of Aeschylus by David Gerrit Komrij, the students debated the issues of the text with Rollins and Branch while also producing small works on paper - visual interpretations of the glowing embers that Prometheus first offers to humankind.

TIM: So now that you've read the beginning of Aeschylus' Prometheus, let me ask you: What is this fire that gets Prometheus into so much trouble? And can you refer to an artwork that suggests or represents your notion of Promethean fire?

ANNELIES WEBER: The fire is the source of power that changes everything. It spreads quickly, touching everybody - a form of great illumination that makes people see things they've never been able to see before. Like the sun, this fire can be your friend or your enemy

MONIQUE REUZEL: For me, the fire of Prometheus is like a bird that is fertilizing other flowers all over the world. This fire creates new life. Otto Piene represents this kind of fire in his Black Sun from 1965. This work represents the presence and absence of fire at once. The sun looks like a black hole drained of all energy. This contradicts the image of the sun we see in the sky everyday- a sun overflowing with energy, energy sent out to humanity so it can live. We have to put some energy back into the hole so it can burn again and again. What you give should come back to you in one way or another, so the circle can be complete.

ROBERT: So the fire is actually a form of power.

CHANTAL SPIEARD: I think the fire is simply the power to survive... especially to survive the negative things in life. This kind of fire reminds me of one of my favorite songs from Curtis Mayfield, "Move on Up."

Lightning Man


Goya (Detail)

BERBER OOSTENBRUG: This fire of Prometheus is love that gives you the will to learn, to be, to create and to be impassioned. It is the power of compassion.

SASJA van DEENEN: The fire of Prometheus is the itch to create, the need to create and the longing to pass your creation on, to start other fires burning.

DIORI VAN ELSWYK: Prometheus suggests to me the Olympic fire that is kept burning all the time. This fire is given from one town to another, from one country to another. The Olympic Games are explosions of athletic power - fire that gets loose. I can make a connection to this kind of fire and an ancient rock painting of lightning men done by Aboriginal artists thousands of years ago.

DANIELLE MOELKER: At first reading, I thought of the fire that Prometheus brought down to the human beings as something material and familiar - like the fire in a fireplace. Now I think that the fire is a form of energy. The fire was something inside Prometheus and he shared it with the people. He shared his love and affection with people the gods considered unworthy of their attentions. I cannot explain it, but the first image of this kind of fire I see in my head comes from Goya's May the Third 1808.

RONALD NIJHOF: This fire is what makes you live like a madman at those moments you wished you were dead.

RACHEL ARNOLDUSSEN: I think the Prometheus-fire produces knowledge with feeling, the ability to give and to absorb, the wanting to let my own fire spread .... This is what the sculpture of Rodin does most for me, especially his Crouching Woman.

TIM: So the fire suggests birth?

RENATE BEATRICE MUNNEKE: The fire of Prometheus must be a power intended to make humankind strong. It's a force that inspires them. This power is Love. This power is best captured by James Ensor in "The Revolting Angels Hit by the Lightning."

MEREL SCHRIJVER: Prometheus gave the people fire, and through this gift, he also gave humans the possiblity to become gods themselves. Before this, Prometheus had supported Zeus' efforts to win the crown of all the gods. I thnk after he saw how Zeus began abusing his new powers, Prometheus felt stupid and waiting to make up for his mistake. A hero can't be a hero when he doesn't know how to be a fool. What is the fire? It is the transformative fire of survival? Is it just the love for humanity? I really don't know. Prometheus is unlike the other Gods ; he would give his life for the love of the people. But can you truly love someone else if you don't love yourself very much? Is it so good to be a martyr? You have to live your life for your own good before you can give your life to someone else. I know my fire is burning, but I don't want to get burned!

Oil Fire

Yves Klein

Citrofris Advertisements

GUAJASSY BRUIJNS GALLINDO: The fire of Prometheus is that power that allows me to "burn" all limits and limitations that block me from my freedom.

MELANIE van SLOCHTEREN: Like burning oil wells, you can't say whether the fire is creative or destructive .

ROBERT DeBOCK: Fire is the start of development. Fire creates endless possiblilities. Fire makes culture and intellect for better or for worse. Instead of a specific artwork, when I think of an object that best represents the fire of Prometheus, I think of a piece of charcoal. Charcoal is the end-product of fire but can be used to produce a new fire. Charcoal is a beautiful material, very fragile, even peaceful and stable. Besides - its a fine material for drawing and making new creations.

NADINE ROL: The fire of Prometheus is Independence.

LISA GROENHOF: And visionary Passion - like the fire paintings of Yves Klein ...

DAAN deJONG: ... the desire to create, therefore a passion for all life. Like a song I learned when I was a little boy:

	"This little light of mine,
	I'm gonna let it shine.
	This little light of mine.
	I'm gonna let it shine
	This little light of mine,
	I'm gonna let it shine
	Every day, all the way
	I'm gonna let it shine."

KEESJE FISCHER: Fire is a question. It is the power of questioning. To gain knowledge and to have the courage to ask questions made Zeus angry because it threatend his power and authority. The Promethean fire reminds me of those starshapes that are always used in comic books or advertising. The color is intense and warm, in bright yellows or reds. They are explosions, ideas, inspirations to buy.

NIELS van VEEN: The fire that Prometheus gave to mankind was simply a flash of creativity. The human mind did all the rest. As an example of this fire, I want to show you the tattoo on the underside of my arm . It not only represents flames of fire, but also fire as a metaphor for creativity, because I designed it myself.

OUTI SUNILA: Without the fire of Prometheus, you're dead.


Personal Ad

Aztec Drawing


Box Postcard

FLEUR REUVERS: I think that the use of cremation in India is the best representation of Promethean fire. It's a power of destruction but also a force of renewal. The fire gives the possibility of new life. This is a picture of me five or six years ago. It was taken by a very good friend of mine, some months before something happened that turned my whole world upside-down. The look I have there I will never have again, but I still have my fire. I'm still a redhead! I also think the fire of Prometheus is present in this personal ad I saw in the paper recently.

IMKE RUIGROK: The fire is like a sneaky allowance. Like when your father tells you " Do it, but don't tell your Mum - she might get worried." This makes you feel exalted, but you also feel sneaky.

KARLIJN HAARS: For me the fire is the inspiration at makes people WANT to explore their capacities for knowledge, creation and joy, like the two "Running Women on the Beach" by Picasso (1922).

ROBERTO VOORBIJ: The fire is that glow in my chest. That rush to my head whenever something dynamic happens.

DANIELLE DE GAST: This fire is now deep inside of everyone. It's the warm and glowing feeling you have when you really love someone or something. It's like the fire of the Aztecs' "New Fire Ceremony". In this ritual, the heart of a sacrifical victim was ripped out and a flame was started in the hole of the victim's chest. This happened a few months after the new year and every fire but this was extinguished and all the community's pots were smashed. This is a great portrayal of the duality of fire: constructive and destructive, inside and outside. It also reminds me of the love I feel for my boyfriend, because he's really into the Aztecs!

LAURA TEUNISSEN: The fire is the beginning of the power to create in order to survive. In "Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh, the painting shows a landscape by night. In the sky we can see the moon and the stars. These elements are painted like great fire balls .

ANTOINET FAAY: When I think of Prometheus' fire, I think of this picture of my grandparents. Their passion for one another, the love they enjoyed together, this is the fire of Prometheus for me.

TIM: So the fire of Prometheus is Love, Passion, Survival, Doubt, Volition, Sacrifice, Birth, Creation, Destruction, Renewal, Nature.

SARAH KEYZER: The fire of Prometheus is even more complex. It's like these postcards you can get for free in bars or schools. You can cut the card and make a little box out of it. The outside is pink and white and decorated with hearts - it seems to contain a love message. But when you open the box, the truth comes out: someone has sent you a hate message.

response by Joe Katzman

Prometheus Bound