Musicologist, poet and founding member of Collectiva Inanna Maria Kouvarou shares the months long journey we took together to produce and perform Taking Back the Booty, from song to script.
First there was an image that created a punch that brought a bitter smile and got stored into a shadowy corner of memory.
Then there was a voluntary dislocation born out of involuntary circumstances that called for a return home – the same home that before was for a person who was the same no more.
And a return there was.
Then there was a void. Silence. Confusion. A struggle to belong, before long, as days were moving on and on and on and on… but all there was, was a self displaced – spatially, mentally, socially, and emotionally – and a silence that kept getting louder, as every attempt at expression became a skein unravelling in knots.
Then there was insomnia. Long hours of pedantic efforts at untangling those knots. But the knots were leading to more and more knots, and the more the hands were working with the thread, the more they got burned by friction.
Then, the suspicion arose.
What if the knots are not to be unmade? What if the skein is not to be unraveled? What if there was no skein at all? What if one’s inner Ariadne wanted her to figure this out on her own? What if all the demons one had created in her head were fictional? What if the Minotaur was not the threat? What if the thread was not required at all?
Gradually, silence began subsiding, opening space for a hum. And the image – that first image that created a punch – which got stored into a shadowy corner of memory and had remained unvisited since, resurfaced. And the image was this: Brown leaves filling a discarded suitcase resting open under a tree. A baggage. Full of leaves – dead leaves – that signified rebirth. A human baggage – full of leaves. The human baggage is full of leaves. A human leaves. That’s what one does. She leaves. Even when static. She flees from what one had been a moment before. She moves on, regardless.
So did the image – that first image – moved on, transformed. Got dislocated from the visual and relocated as melody and words. And then the melody developed, and so did the words.
And knot by knot the tangle unraveled into a song. A litany to dislocation and an ode to the forever pursuit of a home. It’s title: “Labyrinth”. “Labyrinth” wandered for a while, got played, and played with, but was never finished and polished and stored. It was left as a drafty, raw, and unpolished piano version, in a folder on Dropbox, along with some of its companions. And was almost abandoned at a shadowy corner of memory. Almost forgotten, as it was not yet ready to find a home.
Five years later, an ideas board was created online for the four founding members of Collectiva Inanna along with the purpose to host their earlier work that had to do with displacement, through it navigate their creative journey into creating the script for “Taking Back the Booty”. And, through digging folders of previous poems, texts and songs, “Labyrinth” was rediscovered. Lying, awaiting. Raw and unpolished as it was – itself still in the process of being in progress. After moments of hesitation, it got copied and pasted onto the ideas board and, travelling through the soundwaves, it met with all the members of Collectiva Inanna and spoke to them – and resonated with them.
It became a stepping stone through which to explore creative connections. It sparked in-depth conversations about archetypes, the mind, the psyche, the demons, the self and its foes. It provided an explosion of ideas and thoughts and led to discussions on how to bring those ideas and thoughts back “home”; how to connect all the dots and find the way to a possible plot.
In the process, “Labyrinth” became dormant again. It remained there, latently awaiting to see if it was going to be called. If it was going to be needed. If, this time, it will be recorded and stored. If it will find a new – albeit temporary – home.
But maybe it won’t be necessary. Maybe it will remain forever in progress, in the process of becoming. Maybe it will never be settled, it will never belong. Maybe, merely by getting unburied and communicated, it has completed its ultimate purpose: to become the thread that connected the multiple creative fluidities of four East Mediterranean women who have each experienced in their own particular ways processes of displacement that have resulted from dynamics similar to all.
In the end, maybe “Labyrinth” is the Minotaur – or, maybe, “Labyrinth” is us and we are the Minotaur – and maybe we have managed to make peace with it – the labyrinth, the Minotaur, the song – by dislocating it once more, unstitching its parts, deconstructing it, and incorporating its threads into this creative journey. And, maybe, through making peace with it, we have found a vehicle for claiming our right to “take back the booty”.
*lyrics from the song “Labyrinth” [© Maria Kouvarou (M.ouv), 2015]
**photos by Maria Kouvarou