Music Theater / Media Installation
“Here are men’s memories and the ruins of their beliefs.” – Jean Cocteau
About A Season in Hell
A Season in Hell is a historical portrait of political and social turmoil in the post-9/11 era, a hallucinatory spectacle of America as a vision of Hell. The multimedia performance work chronicles a journey through America as told by the artist and his doppelganger, the rogue government official: Secretary-at-Large of the virtual government agency, US Department of Art & Technology. The title of the work is borrowed from Arthur Rimbaud’s 19-century farewell poem, A Season in Hell, to support the artist’s struggle to confront the deterioration of humanity. A Season in Hell draws from additional literary influences including Dante’s Inferno, the legend of Orpheus, the apocalyptic paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and William Blake, and the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson. These sources provide the basis for a contemporary depiction of the Underworld of America, a world rendered from the tumultuous political era of the George W. Bush Administration.
Archived Project Website: https://www.zakros.com/season
Storyboard: The Chronicles of the Secretary-at-Large
Once, if I remember well, I held utopian aspiration for the role of the artist on the world stage. I saw America transformed through revolutionary artistic thought, inspired by the avant-garde, Government revised. My life was a feast in which true freedom was found through the power of imagination, where all was opened beyond what is, to what can be… I transcended bureaucracies, I dissolved the distinction between what is real and what is not, I created new worlds, and I indulged in collective toasts. Photo by Jill Steinberg.
The US Department of Art & Technology (USDAT) began to extrude into the physical environment of Washington, DC, through techniques of virtualization. The USDAT was situated at a site formerly housing the US Department of the Interior, the agency that paradoxically oversees the management of the physical space in America.
With the 2004 Republican National Convention coming to New York City, a grand spectacle of political theater timed to exploit the 3rd anniversary of 9/11, I delivered the “10,000 Acts of Artistic Mediation” speech at the Freedom of Expression National Monument – a brazen act of total theater, a call to artists resounding through the corridors of the City. Photo by Andrew Nagy.
But with the 2004 election, the dream of an artist-driven government was shrouded in the gathering doom of war and dis- information. I fled underground and declared myself the Secretary-at-Large. I heard a voice from the Other side and began chronicling my descent through the treacherous Under World of America (and beyond). Photo by Phyllis Hecht.
Eulogy: “We gather here in this dark hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our sorrow for the Death of the Nation. We are here to pray for America, to bear witness to the passing of its spirit, which was always at risk, and now, to that which is missing: its dreams, aspirations, idealism, extinguished… snuffed out.”
What lies before us are men’s memories and the ruins of their beliefs. The list of casual- ties we are only beginning to fathom… those who died believing in the iridescent glow and ghosted images of the hallowed voice of cable news, perverted and falsified until nothing remained but static and ashes.
Times of crisis demand urgent action. I traveled further, to the East, for unmediated clarity. Out on the terrace at the US Consulate in Istanbul, I reflected on the state of art midway through a post-apocalyptic decade, an attempt to break through the darkness, reaching for some elusive truth. Art must not be petrified in the art world!
Descending into Venice, I penetrated the shadows in search of the mysterious notion of art that extends itself beyond our grasp. It is only through artists underground and established, transmitting an ethereliquary of ideas that won’t burn; that we will draw back the veil on the convoluted and the ideology of Now!
Visitors at the Venice Biennale were surprised to find only the columns and pediment remaining from the former American Pavilion. Now that we have executed “Empire Runs its Course” and reclaimed the American Pavilion, we have completed the first phase of our important task to transform it as the “Virtual Pavilion.”
I descended into the dusty town to engage the showdown that had erupted between the Sheehan Camp and a posse of Cowboys and Christian Bikers who ride and pray for the President. Out behind the Yellow Rose memorabilia shop they ceremoniously declared war against the protestors. As battle lines were drawn and the bugle sounded, I hastily exited the scene.
Theatrical Work: A Season in Hell
Performed at the San Jose Stage as part of the 2010 ZERO1 Biennial.
Orf descends to the bottom of the Underworld of America, Death Valley, where he performs the Requiem and completes the journey.