100 objects to represent the world

Peter Greenaway / Saskia Boddeke

In 1997 two spaceships were launched from Cape Kennedy containing material to represent life on earth. The ambition of the project was to make hypothetical contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence. The choice of material was subjective to an American, scientifically educated, 1970s community, with paternalistic attitude towards the rest of the world. But who consulted us? We were not asked to make a contribution and we must do something about this falsification, especially now as we approach the end of the second millennium, when everyone is making lists and taking stock of what has been achieved.

With a mixture of irony and seriousness, the filmmaker, artist and director has chosen to put together his own shopping list called 100 objects to represent the world. After presenting this 100 objects in an exhibition at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace in 1992, Greenaway now brings the objects to an audience instead of bringing the audience to the objects: in a completely new and theatrical setting, light, sound, voice and music will be part of a modern opera – a prop opera. The importance of the prop should not be underestimated in our own materialistic and icon-producing world. Can you imagine a Chicago Gangster Film without a gun?
But the objects to represent the world are not inanimate but are presented in a mixture of Machiavellian, galactic toy store and Faustian dream space.

The opera set is an installation that can be contemplated on stage also before and after the performance.

The 100 objects are presented in a sequential narrative by Thrope the Misanthrope, who guides us and Adam and Eve (two silent, naked actors) to show what mankind has really learned during the past millennium: from the comforts of domesticity and sentiment, through the delights and torments of sex, power and money, to the tragedies of war, disease, loss and death. This journey is to be traveled in 70 minutes, structured by Thrope’s spoken discourse. His dramatic performance is accompanied by the soundtrack of Jean-Baptiste Barrière (engineered at IRCAM Paris), making him a teacher, a pedant and persuader, a charlatan and preacher.

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