Why Clepsydra still makes my heart a-flutter, six years later


Apparently, really good things happen when artists Konstantinos Vita and Dimitris Papaioannou get together and decide to make love with the minds of billions of people around the world.

Six years ago I had just graduated the eighth grade, and it was the summer of the 2004 Athens Olympics. I had been obsessed with the idea of the opening and closing ceremonies ever since Salt lake City in 2002, and I was literally counting down the days until the Athens opening (in the back of my math notebook).

Unless you were going into cardiac arrest – or, like, had work that night – I wouldn’t understand why you wouldn’t have seen it (awkward verb navigation there). The deep aqueous color schemes, the role of rhythm as a sort of  physical, atmospheric setting, the balance between exclusively Greek symbolism and extensively global contemporary aesthetic – ahh, someone get me a dvd copy. I remember not wanting to blink for fear of missing something amazing.

Greek Boat Boy

The opening drums, so good

Olive leaf torch like seriously <@333

Every moment was “ap images”-able. And while Jacques Rogge’s repeated attempts at making a Katara-style hope speech without his signature awkward pauses every four seconds that herald subsequently awkward applause make me warm inside all the time, the reason I’m writing about it six years and three Olympics later is because of the Clepsydra, directed and music-ed by Dimitris Papaioannou and Konstantinos Vita, respectively.

Δημήτρης Παπαϊωάννου, professional dreamer

Κωνσταντίνος Βήτα, professional musical BAMF

Like, if you haven’t seen this portion of the ceremony but are really into Greek history, you kind of really need to.

“Clepsydra” means timeline (at least that’s what Bob Costas said in the opening ceremony commentary), and that’s basically what the piece was about.  It was a living timeline of the history of the Hellenic peoples and their lil’ ol’ plaything da ‘Lympics.

A train of moving platforms carries living figures embodying Papaioannou’s vision of the Greek timeline.  Colors are striking but subdued, slow-moving people create breathing pictures reminiscent of the art and sculpture speaking the language of all the building blocks of modern “Western civilization”.

The rhythmic echoes of K.bhta’s composed piece didn’t just serve as background music to a visual spectacle, it was an integral part of it.  Music evolves with the Clepsydra, alluding to a state of human existence more than Greek -more than human, even.

The piece was both self-referential and universal.  While the subject matter (Oh gosh, 10th art class vocabulary) remained very Greek, the mood Papaioannou and K.bhta chose to set was molded beyond a sense of spectacle and deeply embedded in some sort of psychological hunger for a sensation of other-worldliness to be found in any sector of human history.


Here, just, just watch it:


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