Tuesday 16 July 2013

Museum of Human Behaviour


Museum of Human Behaviour, by Simeio Theatre Group in the Benaki Museum, Pireos Annexe.

An installation, was the best way I could think to describe this experience: I have certainly not taken part in anything like it before. When I got home and read a review in Kathimerini, this is how it was described: 'An Installation: a living museum with actors/exhibits'.

Fifteen different performances that took place on all five levels of the museum, including the roof and the underground parking area. Small plays, dance, recitals, discussions, songs, each with its own theme.

The review I read described this 'experience' as a challenge to the conventional notion of what a museum is, as well as questioning the meaning of experience itself. There was no set sequence to the themes/performances, but we wandered around the museum, sampling the different tableaux/performances and re-visiting some.

In the beginning, we were led outside

the actors lined up in the street

and then they entered the museum with us following.

Eros was the first performance I watched and that was in the museum shop. We were told various stories about love and relationships.

There was a dance performance outside the lift on the ground floor which is what I saw next, but I have not been able to locate this on the map

I called the lift and when the doors opened, this is what I encountered - Birth. I got in the lift, and the woman, who was standing up by then, came very close to me and what followed were a few seconds that felt like hours, of intense eye contact: she looked very sad. She then, very unexpectedly, gave me a very strong, tight hug. When the lift stopped moving and I got out I realised that even though I had felt the lift travel, we had ended up where we started.

This is Sex

as is this, half an hour later. A 'wishful thinking' monologue, male fantasies mainly

I Believe - I came across this woman quite a few times, a hunted and haunted figure, who was trying to avoid the audience, running all over the place


I came across these two women who were singing, again and again, as, like I Believe, they roamed around the museum


three women with bowls of water at their feet, dipping their cloths in the water, a lot of hand wringing, asking for forgiveness through the stories they were telling


telling us the story of the crucifixion


and here seen from below. He talked to us about various games and showed us their application

These two kept cropping up all over the place, always kissing, they must have come up for air at some point, but I never saw it

at first I thought they were part of the audience, but when I saw them again in a different location, I realised that they were part of the installation

Meanwhile, on the roof, as seen from the courtyard, was The Walk

a very slow walk, and at different times, when I looked up, there she was, on a different part of the roof

left the courtyard,  went to the other side of the building, to explore the installations there. A different lift, and Shadow. Another tight hug, and this time a poem was whispered in my ear


Memory. An empty amphitheatre in darkness, the usual white paper, and a recording


Utopia, in the men's toilets. This man was in search of a utopian island, which this member of the audience managed to locate on this small globe that was part of the installation. He was soaking wet and he had a selection of combs - we each had to choose one and then comb his hair so that he was presentable for his trip to the island.


and then I came upon I Believe again

Democracy in the café, different panellists every day

Food, and this is what he talked about

and later.

On my way to the underground car park, I came upon this tragic figure, tears and mascara streaming down her face

and no wonder, because on entering the underground car park we came upon


a scene of torture,

very dramatic and very distressing

water boarding?

but the talk was about the conflict between Protestants and Catholics and that made me think of Northern Ireland

 on the way out I came across


the two women from Song sitting on the stairs, in despair.

An amazing experience, I left feeling totally overwhelmed.


  1. I do wish that this kind of theatrical production could be more publicised than the more negative aspects of Greek life. This would be wholly appropriate for the Edinburgh Festival. However, it is much more comfortable to read about than to experience I imagine. As someone who hates audience participation, although I find it intellectually intriguing, I'm sure I would have found it emotionally harrowing.
    I have a cousin in Athens who is a theatre designer, and I hope you don't mind if I copy this post of yours to her in an email.

    1. Like you, I hate audience participation, Olga: I go all shy and want to hide in my shell. This was o.k. though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The hugging in the lifts made me feel a bit self-conscious, but having come across 'Free Hugs' participants both in Athens and in Copenhagen, I am getting used to hugging strangers.

      Athens has a very rich cultural life. I read somewhere recently that it has more theatres than any other capital city in Europe, and I can well believe it. The Athens and Epiraurus Festival in the summer months is amazing.

      Art is very good too, but not in Athens in the summer, as all the exhibitions move to the islands. The Museum of Modern Art in Andros is fantastic and we try to go most summers for the exhibitions: this year's exhibition does not interest me however. Last year's was very good: http://a-place-called-space.blogspot.gr/2012/10/approaching-surrealism.html