You Bacchic women
descended from old Cadmus,
you’ve won glorious victory,
one which ends in tears,
which ends in lamentation.
A noble undertaking this,
to drench one’s hands in blood,
life-blood dripping from one’s only son.
–from Euripides’ “The Bacchae”
Those of you who have taken the rigorous Literary Tradition III class may not remember each disastrous detail from each Greek tragedy, but I reckon that there’s one wild group in particular that you haven’t forgotten: crazy Bacchic women dancing, screaming and worshiping that mischievous god Dionysus. Euripides’ “The Bacchae” enthrallingly depicts Dionysus taking divine revenge on the city of Thebes and transforming these chaste women into characters who pillage like mad and rip cows apart – with their bare hands.
And these are only the chorus members in Euripides’ play. I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for anyone who hasn’t read it (though Dionysus would love to spoil it for you), but like any good Greek tragedy, there’s messed-up family dynamics, death, betrayal, more death and the inescapable fate. Reading the play alone sends chills up and down a student’s spine. The power of the playwright’s words continues to haunt civilization centuries later. But can you image what it would be like to see such a thing?
Well, you can. For its debut exhibition of 2012, the Nasher Sculpture Center will host the first touring exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Elliott Hundley’s “The Bacchae.” These unique “bulletin board” collages and sculptures combine the world of ancient Greek tragedy with contemporary art. This drama comes to life, not by words or by the stage, but through mixed-media collages and multi-panel, multi-layered compositions. Pictures, strings of letters, hundreds of pins and passages of Euripides’ text tell the story in a modern way. In addition, the exhibition is accompanied by essays written by famous poets, art historians and critics. These writings investigate Hundley’s work and inspirations for such an exhibit.
The exhibit opens this week on Jan. 28 at the Nasher Sculpture Center. It’s a $5 outing for students; true, that equals three-and-a-half Cap Bar drinks that keep college kids from turning into a bacchant or a bacchante. But for University of Dallas students in particular, it may be a worthwhile opportunity to reminisce and rediscover lessons taught in one of the Core curriculum classes.