We, Antigone

By Stefanos Tsivopoulos, 2016
OCT 13–DEC 15 | GALLERY
Hours vary each day of the festival
Post-festival hours: Thur-Sat, 12 PM–6 PM

Artist’s Statement

“I have been a stranger here in my own land: All my life,” says Antigone to the chorus.

That is very much the case of Rakeem Edwards, a 25-year-old black man born in Georgia and raised in Alaska. He lived in group and foster homes before moving to Portland at the age of 21 to pursue an acting career. Now homeless, Rakeem works several part-time jobs to survive, and his main creative output is to perform as a drag queen in parties where he is paid to cry.

Does it come easily for Edwards to cry on demand? What are the images, the sounds, the stories that he recalls, that make him cry? This work takes a closer look at his life, the challenges that he faces as a gay black man in his social and working environment, his family relations, and finally in the pursuit of his dreams. The film inquires how issues such as race, sexual orientation, income inequality, and social mobility play a major role in defining and expressing oneself.

The film combines visually poetic images with discussions and interviews with Edwards and his close social network. Finally, it includes several of his performances that reveal the power of vulnerability and the acceptance of sadness and crying as a necessary catharsis.

On We, Antigone

By Stefanos Tsivopoulos

Antigone was not the offspring of Oedipus and Jokaste. Antigone was not a young princess in love with Heamon, and she didn’t die in a cave as punishment for disobeying Creon’s law to keep her brother from a proper burial. Antigone was not a woman, nor a man, because she had no gender. Antigone was never born, nor died in Sophocles’ imagination; she has always been here, long before him. Antigone was, is, and will always be present.

There aren’t many words that embody so profoundly the complexity of the human condition as the word Antigone. There aren’t many ideas that come to represent the power of the human spirit and the paradox of existence so elegantly as Antigone. Perhaps Antigone can be compared to that immaterial element, the elusive particle without name, mass, or properties that defines the world around us better than the material world that we see and touch. An element ingrained in our DNA, which inspires us to resist the laws of fear and compels us to connect with the laws of endurance, benevolence, and sacrifice.

We can witness Antigone all around us today, in acts of resistance and disobedience as much as in acts of solidarity and humility, in personal relations, and in social and collective accomplishments. Social justice and emancipation, the right to vote, freedom of speech, the civil rights movement, social and economic mobility, gender equality, LGBT rights, and freedom of religion are some examples that bear witness to Antigone in action.

On the individual level, expressing who we are and what we stand for can often become an act of rebellion against norms and the mainstream culture that others represent. But even beyond the dominant and the conventional, how do unwritten and silent laws influence the individual’s freedom of expression in society? Stating who we are can often generate negative responses and social judgment—resulting in marginalization, isolation, and eventually social exile. Overcoming this fear of being judged, and standing up for who we are, constitutes in itself a major political act. My contribution to Antigone Now is just that: to be without fear.