On a haunted, wind-swept plain two sisters meet and embrace, a huge incandescent orb rising ominously behind them. This is no ordinary place and these are not ordinary women.
Thus began the recent production of Sophocles’ Antigone at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I saw it in September with my friend and colleague, Anne Bartoc, and her design students from Pratt. Their assignment was to see the play, then create a poster and other items (web banner, T shirt, or key chain) based on the production. I thought it would be interesting so see how each interpreted the play, maybe learning something about how literature and drama affects each of us in similar, yet different ways.
I visited their class a week ago, and was not disappointed. The students are a terrific bunch, and it was clear a lot of time, effort and imagination had gone into their work. Each one was moved by a different aspect of the production, yet each managed to capture something of the play’s essence. Here are their wonderful designs, with some of their thoughts and mine.
Lee saw the play as “the shame of Creon,” and wanted to bring that character into the artwork along with Antigone. By featuring both, he captures the sense of shared tragedy and fate. In the giant glowing sun, he also conveys the Greek sense of man as small and insignificant in relation to the gods and natural world. Note the dominating red-orange color. You will see it again.
Misra was impressed by the moon, and “embossed” the powerful actress playing Antigone (Juliette Binoche) upon it. In this design, the moon floats in a void, symbolizing how Antigone’s disobedience (and courage) have cut her off from society. The image also suggests the sonogram of an unborn child, not inappropriate for the young heroine who laments that she will never marry and bear children. Her life is short; in a sense, she also is unborn. As in many of the posters, the color red plays a strong role.
Frigura’s design joins the mask of classic Greek theater with a distorted, doll-like face, suggesting both horror and youth. It is bold and pared down, much like Greek tragedy where action is stripped to the bone, language is stark, and the audience knows where it’s going and gets there fast. The face is looking up as if asking “why?” of the gods who in the Greek universe were always in control of individual fates. The red-orange part of the spectrum is utilized, the tones also suggesting Greek red-figure pottery. This design seems almost too big and bold for the computer screen, and would pop off the wall as any good poster should.
Holoman present the funeral materials in a dark void, the flower petals falling like drops of blood. He spoke of wanting to convey “that ominous glow you felt all over the play,” and achieved a beautiful sense of mystery and solemnity that makes the viewer stop and wonder, then take a closer look. The red orange colors suggest human blood and the fire used in the funeral rites, as well as the fire in Antigone’s heart.
While Soojin Joo said she “couldn’t 100% understand the play,” she captured a sense of classical tragedy in the white, mask-like face, and dark hillside from which it emerges which suggests Antigone’s entombment. This is almost an “after” take on the play, with the shadows not solid but made of ashes, the heroine, at peace, gone from the troubled land to join her family in Hades.
Inspired by the production’s first scene in which Antigone moves from darkness into light, Slater used a strongly lit image of Juliette Binoche in motion. The vertical rule on the right (red again!), symbolizes the rigid forces thwarting Antigone, the hard line between what society sees as right and what it judges to be wrong. The figure’s movement is mirrored in the fluid type which to Slater “had an organic feeling,” as well as a sense of femininity.
This poster and the idea behind it haunts me. Chu said that she was “struck by the emotion of the opening,” and wanted to capture it in her art. But she removed Ismene, leaving Antigone embracing a void. As she does on her journey to death. This stark concept is offset by type that suggests ancient Greek lettering, but with a modern look.
In Min Gi Ha’s work we see movement and speed, suggesting perhaps the heroine’s short life. Antigone, almost out of the frame, is running, but pursued by a dark tornado-like shape (the Furies?) which has wrapped itself around her neck, foreshadowing her manner of death. Humans go about their lives, oblivious to the fates that will descend upon them. Though it is hers, Antigone never sees it coming. Again, red plays a big part; its presence in the type fading away as does her human existence.
To all the artists: well done!