Punishment’s Place




*photo by Julie Weitz

Punishment’s Place is a cycle of three ritualized chants that emerge from somatic explorations of a shattered monument to Prometheus Bound. Wings, chains, a snake’s skin, and pieces of a man are taken up by artist-performers Kathleen Keogh, Oscar Alvarez and Peter Tomka as the building blocks for the image of the cyclically punished demigod Prometheus. Punishment’s Place grafts the contemporary political climate of punitive logic symbolized by the monument onto the subjectivity and circumstances of the performers involved.. 


*documentation by Ian Byers Gamber

  *photo by Brandon Lattu



...This is a cold pastime. This is a calculated whim. Coldness, Calculation, suffering for profit and fun. This is before loss makes you good...


Since the election of 2016, I have been thinking about the ways in which people make each other into effigies of the structural forces they are unable to affect. We can’t punish the government and even if we could, a dead tyrant always escapes too soon. The urge to punish has to go somewhere we can see it hurt. We want satisfaction.

Punishment’s Place uses the myth Prometheus Bound as a point of departure. Prometheus, a demigod, brings the tool of fire to hungry humans shivering in their stinking caves. Consequently he is chained to a mountain, where his liver is pecked everyday by an eagle.  Reading Robert Lowell’s translation of Aeschylus's text, I was struck by the irony of this god declaring his loneliness to the sea birds, the sea foam, Hercules, Hercules’s Mother—just about everyone and everything that can listen. It is through his status as a victim that he stays at the center of the story and at the center of the reader’s attention. As an unchanging representation of self pity and survival, he stays a god.


The centerpiece of Punishment’s Place is a sculptural tableaux of Prometheus Bound consisting of an eagle, snake, and Prometheus statue. These were fabricated, broken, repaired, and reengineered over the course of a year while working with performance artists Peter Tomka, Kathleen Keough, and Oscar Alvarez in order to accommodate new ideas imported through our improvisations and discussions. Importantly, the Prometheus myth was a starting place for our exchanges about our personal experiences with retribution, times when we played the part of the predator and times when we were someone else’s prey.




Sculptural Tableaux from Punishment’s Place, resin coated fabric, wood, epoxy and sewn fabric. (Oscar Alvarez on floor) Photo by Peter Tomka
Mark