Sunday, April 30, 2023

Burned Cities

Thanks to my sister, I've been lucky enough over the last year or so to go to a couple of performances of the immersive production The Burnt City. It takes place in a Troy which is simultaneously Schliemann's excavation, the ancient city, and a Blade Runner-type Art Deco dystopia. As their own website says, "As night falls, Gods, mortals, dreamers and lovers come alive – one last time."

So I was interested recently when I came across this passage from Arthur Evans' excavation report on Knossos, The Palace of Minos III (1930):

The Grand Staircase as thus re-compacted stands alone among ancient architectural remains. With its charred columns solidly restored in their pristine hues, surrounding in tiers its central well, its balustrades rising, practically intact, one above the other, with its imposing fresco of the great Minoan shields on the back walls of its middle gallery, now replaced in replica, and its still well-preserved gypsum steps ascending to four landings, it revives, as no other part of the building, the remote past. It was, indeed, my own lot to experience its strange power of imaginative suggestion, even at a time when the work of reconstitution had not attained its present completeness. During an attack of fever, having found, for the sake of better air, a temporary lodging in the room below the inspection tower that has been erected on the neighbouring edge of the Central Court, and tempted in the warm moonlight to look down the staircase-well, the whole place seemed to awake awhile to life and movement. Such was the force of the illusion that the Priest-King with his plumed lily crown, great ladies, tightly girdled, flounced and corseted, long-stoled priests, and, after them, a retinue of elegant but sinewy youths—as if the Cup-bearer and his fellows had stepped down from the walls—passed and repassed on the flights below.

No comments: