Ancient Wars, Endless War: Adaptations of Greek Tragedy
As US artists grappled with the politics of a post 9/11 world, a distinct return to the classics grew in popularity. This move, I contend, foregrounded the imagination in a way that proved productive for US civilians and service-people, even while it demonstrated a preference for framing the current conflict in already-existing terms, rather than generating original narratives or aesthetic practices. Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad (first produced in 2009) offers cross-cultural connection as an antidote to dehumanizing the enemy, and Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq (first produced in 2010) investigates the harm caused by US military policy. Even while these two pieces point to the limits of the imagination, they undertake a practice of using performance to imagine transforming harm into care.