Bryant Anderson's flame

James (Cori)  Lyles's flame

Eddie Alvarado's flame

Studio Air,
Chicago, Illinois, 4/3/98

On April 3, 1998, Tim Rollins visited STUDIO AIR, a visual arts workshop for artistically talented teenagers from the South Shore community of Chicago. STUDIO AIR is directed by Business Manager Sara Olsen (26) and Arts Instructor Eddie Alvarado (24) along with VISTA volunteers Bryant Anderson (28) and Rolando Young (18). Rollins conducted a workshop on PROMETHEUS BOUND at the invitation of Eddie Alvarado, who at the age of seventeen first met and worked with Rollins and K.O.S. in 1991 in a community-based workshop that produced a permanent installation of drawings for the Chicago Authors Reading Room in the Harold Washington Public Library. After the participants produced their own "luminous petals" of fire in oil pastel on rag paper, collaged on ink-covered pages torn from a volume of the Aeschylus play, the following dialogue ensued. STUDIO AIR is made possible by the Shorebank Neighborhood Institute.

Participants in Dialogue Four
(in order of appearance):

Tim Rollins (43)
Rolando Young (18)
Margaux Ellis (17)
Nathaniel (Nate) Kinsey (14)
Lewis Lovelady (16)
Bryant Anderson (28)
Nikita Kinsey (13)
Evan Allgood (14)
James (Cori) Lyles (15)
Eddie Alvarado (24)
Sara Olsen (26)

Tim:   Can you understand Prometheus?

Rolando:   I'm not sure if Prometheus was brave or crazy. Maybe he could have found a way to give human beings fire without getting caught. Still, I'm glad he gave us those sparks because if he didn't we probably wouldn't be here today. And I think that the fire that Prometheus gave us to inspire us to make things is the same energy that makes me want to be a teacher.

Margaux:   I'm not all that sure that Prometheus was right in crossing Zeus. I mean, Prometheus actually betrayed his boss. He wasn't loyal and he took the fate of the universe into his own hands. There was a system and an order that Prometheus just ignored, thinking he knew what was for the best, thinking he was wiser than Zeus. Maybe Zeus knew something about human beings that Prometheus didn't. So Prometheus isn't all that like some kind of super-hero. He's kind of dangerous.

Nate:   What? Prometheus was a super-hero! If he hadn't brought down the fire of creativity, none of us would be here in this warm room today having a discussion about him. None of us would even understand was it means to be an artist -- to make things -- to create futures for ourselves. I admire Prometheus. I wouldn't mind being like him.

Evan Allgood's flame

Evan Allgood's flame

Lamont E. Adams's flame

Lamont E. Adams's flame

Lamont E. Adams's flame

Margaux Ellis's flame

Nathaniel Kinsey's flame

Nathaniel Kinsey's flame

Nikita Kinsey's flame

Nikita Kinsey's flame

Rolando Young's flame

Rolando Young's flame

Rolando Young's flame
Lewis:   Prometheus doesn't mind helping the people. He knew it was wrong to allow them to constantly suffer. He gave them the fire that gave them the power to create art, the power to live instead of just existing.

Keith:   Prometheus is like a role model for me. I admire his courage. Zeus is bogus, and Prometheus knows it. I feel like I am a Prometheus, and I don't care if your name is Zeus or whoever, nobody has a right to hold me back from my chance of a lifetime to do what I've got to do.

Tim:   Do you think Prometheus is just out for his own glory? Why is he doing and going through all this? Eddie, Rolando, Bryant and Sara - I have one question for all of you. Why have your created this workshop in a run-down storefront on the South Side of Chicago? Why are you really doing all of this? Are you a bunch of wide-eyed goody-goodies? Why work with these teenagers? Why don't you just go and get paid?

Bryant:   I here on a quest to learn and grow. Growth is in this for everybody involved. Everyone is always learning here and this is a power that keeps pushing us forward, expanding who we are and what we are all capable of. It all depends on what your values are. Sure, money is necessary to survive, but life isnít just about survival. Life isn't just about making money. Much of what goes on here is more valuable than money. You see, I know I'm getting paid, just not in cash right now. But I know what I'm gaining here, and I can see it turning into financial gain down the line. This is my work! I'm all about meeting and learning from other people in order to learn more about myself. Then I can deal with people in general. I'll find out what I truly want by finding out who I truly am. It's about wanting to make your mark on the world.

Nikita:   I'm for Prometheus because he couldn't just sit back and let the people suffer and stuff.

Tim:   But he knew, he knew, he knew what he was getting into. Look at our translation:

Bright, heavenly light and rushing, soaring winds
River fountains forever laughing
ocean waves And Earth - our mother
and you
the ever-vigilent eye of the Sun

Look at what the Gods will do to one of their own!
This is the humiliation and torture
I must endure for centuries to come.
The new oppressor from above
Forged these chains of degradation.

Oh God, I feel the agony now, and forever
When shall this hell storm be over?

But, what am I talking about?
I always knew this would happen.
I knew what I was getting into.
And I know what I have to go through.
I am willing to suffer the consequences.
You don't know like I know.
You can't fight Destiny.

Destiny! He calls his fate Destiny! What's destiny?

Nikita:   Something you can't change.

Margaux:   Something you have to go through.

Tim:   Something you just have to go through. Prometheus knew he was in for it. Fate had determined that somehow, somewhere, someone would have to mediate between the Gods and humanity. Is Prometheus a good teacher?

Margaux:   He's not teaching. He gave people something, but he didn't show them anything.

Tim:   Do you all agree with Margaux? Any arguments?

Nate:   I have an argument. Prometheus had the teacher spirit. I mean, why else risk his ass for this, you know? Think about it! He could be hanging out with his boys on Mount Olympus, dancing with Venus and Aphrodite and all those other beautiful goddesses! But instead, he takes a chance for his little friends here on Earth and he ends up tortured and in chains. He's laying bound down on this rock and he's thinking," I knew this was coming. How come I didn't handle this better? I could have slowed all this down." But no, he decided to go forward with his teacher spirit, his program, no matter what the risk.

Tim:   Have any of you read the essay " A Knock At Midnight" by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? It's from his book THE STRENGTH TO LOVE. I want you all to read it. Rev. King in a moment of great, excrutiating crisis. His house has been bombed. People are phoning death threats in to his family everyday. He deeply doubts that the civil rights movement will continue to victory. He can't sleep, so he's sitting at his kitchen table drinking coffee, worried to death when a quiet, still voice speaks to him and tells him that everything is going to be all right - that he must continue down the road he has chosen and that he will be covered and protected. In his essay King tells us that at that moment he found an assurance and peace and courage stronger than any he had ever felt before.

Evan:   Prometheus was like that. He did what was right, because the people were ...were...

Tim:   Dumb? Stupid? Foolish?

Evan:   No, not that! They needed help because they just didn't know how to do anything for themselves, how to help themselves.

Cori:   I'd like to comment on this whole story. I think this ancient story relates to these days and times. The story is a metaphor and it's telling me something powerful. Prometheus is like many of the leaders who came before my generation: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, all those figures who rose up and tried to teach the people. The people on Earth in the days of Prometheus were in the same condition as much of the African American community today. We're longing for knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding - those are the flames of fire that Prometheus wants to give the community. And just like all revolutionary liberators, Prometheus was persecuted, criticized and treated wrongly just because of his will to do right. I think Prometheus Bound relates to everything that's still going on today.

Eddie:   I'm with Prometheus all the way. Now, what are we doing here? Cory is right when he sees the story relating to what is going on today. Prometheus made a gift of energy to the folk on Earth and he was willing to pay the price. Look, just coming down here to work with teens, I've been almost mugged twice on the train. I had a guy practically die in my arms right in front of the studio here. But I'm still here. I still keep coming back because I know I have something to give you guys. The reason I do this is because when I was your age, I got the opportunity to work with Tim and another artist from New York, Keith Haring. They gave me a creative work experience that I would never have gotten otherwise. That's why I want you guys to have the same quality of expereince that I have had. That's why I'm here.

Tim:   What's great about about what we've made today - these little paintings of "luminous petals"- is that - if they are taken care of - they will never die. I will die. You will die. But these things may never die. That's the power and magic of art. If you want to survive, not as a body but as a voice, a culture, an affirmation of spirit, then you draw and paint, you write, you make poetry and song and dance. You make the invisible visible. You make an idea concrete in material. Malcolm X cannot die, because we have his recordings and speeches and writings and inspiration. Rev. Dr. King will never die because he was anointed with a fire that will never be extinguished. A genuine Promethean fire never goes out, it burns on forever, and that is why Power finds it so dangerous.

Sara:   The reason I come to do this because I identify with the process that proves that you can make ideas concrete and that you can make a work of art that someone would be willing to pay thousands of dollars for, works that are worthy of inclusion in museum collections. Why not? The world is made up of people just like us. The people at the top are the same as people who can't figure out how we can make ideas concrete and valuable and available to the the rest of the world. I have come to this realization in my life and it just thrills me to come to be a part of this realization with other people.

Tim:   Why are you all here today?

Eddie:   I'm here to teach.

Nico:   I'm here to learn as much as I can... and to get a little bit of the spotlight!

Nate:   I'm here to learn how to be a managing studio artist and to control the direction of my life.

Margaux:   I'm here because I love the beauty of art.

Lewis:   I'm here because I want to learn how to do art more better. People say I'm already good, but I want to become better and to do art better than others.

Nikita:   I 'm here to learn about airbrushing and design and how all that stuff goes...

Evan:   I'm here to learn artmaking and to use it as tool for creating my own future.

Cori:   I 'm here to make my contribution to Freedom, Justice and Equality through art.

Rolando:   I'm here to teach. I'm here to learn.

Keith:   I want to learn every technique of art making I can. I want to learn about everything, every style of art available.

Sara:   I'm here to join with you guys, because you are pioneers. We're going to conquer uncharted territories.

Tim:   And I guess I'm here because I like to start fires.

Prometheus Bound