Prometheus Bound

Introduction to Prometheus Bound

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) have worked together collaboratively since the early 1980s when Rollins, a special ed teacher assigned to public school 52 in the South Bronx, established the Art and Knowledge workshop for students with learning disabilities. Out of this grew a collective art practice based on texts which the group studied together. Typically, pages from literary classics were laid on canvas to form a ground, then overpainted with imagery that had evolved through discussion as an embodiment of motifs and issues central to the given material. Their study of art history through books and museum visits was supplemented by a deep engagement with contemporary art practice as well as a strong appreciation of certain highpoints of contemporary mass culture. Thus, for example, works which presented unadorned pages from X-men comics coexisted with paintings based on Flaubert's "Temptation of Saint Anthony," Kafka's "Amerika," Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," and Aristophanes' "The Frogs."

In turning to the Web as a new site of activity Rollins and K.O.S. continue a practice that has long incorporated interaction with others. For over the past fifteen years they have held workshops in numerous cities throughout the Western world in which they have engaged youth from many different backgrounds and circumstances. For their Web project they have decided to create a work "in public", taking Aeschylus's "Prometheus Bound" as their point of departure.

In the classic Greek play Prometheus is punished by Zeus above all for his defiance in giving fire to humankind. And it is this fire, which Thoreau translated as "that glowing flower", that has become the focal point for Rollins and K.O.S. in their exploration of Aeschylus's work. Each member of K.O.S. has created animations to represent what one of the group described as Prometheus's "luminous petals". Used to indicate points of navigation throughout the site, these animate flames are especially appropriate for a web site work in that they perfectly capture the medium's dynamism as much as its capacity for unfettered expansion, its boundlessness.

In place of discussions conducted in the studio to tease out the currency and topicality of the key issues in this play a series of dialogues has been initiated with art educators, philosophers, and others. These exchanges are amplified by reference to what the group regards as key visualizations of the theme, by artists of the past as well by diverse contemporary practitioners including film-makers and graphic artists. Commentaries by invited interlocutors and contributions from the Web audience will be incorporated into these dialogues on an ongoing basis. In addition, Rollins and K.O.S. will offer their own translation of this exemplary tale in the form of an audio text.

Lynne Cooke