Yvonne Rainer channeled Apollo to deliver a witty political rant at the Michigan Theater
Did you know that Greek sun god Apollo was a cat guy?
Yvonne Rainer, called a “true interdisciplinary artist” by Ann Arbor Film Festival Associate Director of Programs Katie McGowan, gave her Penny Stamps lecture/performance at the Michigan Theater on March 22. Speaking as the oracular god, Rainer delivered a multi-part letter titled "A Truncated History of the Universe for Dummies" chronicling Apollo’s quest to help the mere mortals of Earth.
Dressed in a shirt matching the ruby red curtain behind her, Rainer hypnotized a mixed audience of students, professionals, and appreciators of art for more than 40 minutes with vivid and violent imagery.
With not-so-hidden political undertones, Rainer’s lecture, like her films and choreography, did not please everyone. It was a witty talk blending storytelling, current events, political commentary, vivid imagery, and statistics. She called out the EPA, the Koch brothers, employers, politicians, “whoopee cushion” presidents, and entire countries on their poor behavior. Her Apollo tale spun so rapidly, and with so many references, that to miss a name or a detail left the audience scrambling to catch up with the 83-year-old post-modern maverick. This was not a lecture to be listened to passively.
Beginning with a simple “to whom it may concern,” her Apollo tells of how he could have saved the world a lot of suffering if only certain current, historical, and mythological figures (Homer, Achilles, and many more) would have listened to his wisdom. Apollo told of speaking with Bashar al-Assad about the situation in Syria, having BLTs with Jane Goodall in Manhattan, and receiving a panicked call from former President Obama. He recounted being scolded like a delinquent teenager, bringing three famous choreographers back to life so as to win the good graces of a goddess, and having been reduced to a particle after receiving rejection after rejection.
In Rainer’s part call-to-action, part commentary, the puckish god recounted how he knew the Trojan horse was a silly idea, argued with Oedipus, and lamented at not finishing college. Apollo spoke of his disdain for technology despite having used an iPhone to call Hillary Clinton to offer 2016 campaign advice. He mentioned his frustration at the bickerings of world leaders and wonders why they can’t just do what needs to be done. He had a litany of complaints against the use of “rage entrepreneurship” and its effects.
Peppered with profanities and seasoned with Rainer’s sass, Apollo gave his opinion on the Me Too movement, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and the sexuality in scientific rhetoric. He has a self-realization that he himself contributed to the toxic environment on Olympus and that even goddesses haven’t been excluded from harassment, particularly by Olympus’ number one creeper, Zeus.
After her epic-length lecture, the audience stood and applauded Rainer (and Apollo) for her voice, her tenacity, and her storytelling.
Sarah M. Parlette spends her time freelancing, working at the AADL, and planning her next adventure.