An artistic performance inspired by Greek tragedy on suffering and the absurd

MONTREAL –

It is a performance about life and death.

Inspired by the Greek myth “Sisyphus”, Montreal artist Victor Pilon will shovel 300 tonnes of sand at the Olympic Stadium.

It is a modern study in the absurdity and repetition of life, based on an old legend.

For angering Zeus, king of the gods, Sisyphus, a mere mortal, was condemned to a repetitive task for eternity: pushing a boulder up a mountain every day, just to see it fall.

Pilon traded the rock for sand.

“I said to myself, ‘If Sisyphus pushes this rock up the mountain and it falls and breaks and breaks for eternity, what will become of it? Sand,’ he said.

Starting September 28, Pilon will shovel the equivalent of 300 tons of sand from one side of the East Hall of the Olympic Stadium to the other. It will take a month.

The only scoop he will use contains a microphone, so the audience will hear and see every scoop.

“The shovel can be shared with others and I will see if they are ready to become Sisyphus, and to be part of the experience of the absurd because it is totally absurd: to do something that does not end and accomplishes nothing,” he said.

The spark for this project was the death of Pilon’s longtime partner, who died in a car accident.

He knows he will suffer while shoveling, but not as much as he has since Sylvain’s death.

Pilon said his plan struck a chord with others who have lost loved ones.

A Big O employee approached him with her story.

“It helps me through my grief,” she told Pilon. “I lost my child a few months ago.”

“She just starts crying, I start crying,” Pilon said. “I will shovel for you and I will shovel for your son.”

While people are watching, he wants them to think too.

“It’s a wake-up call: what do I want to do with my life,” he said. “Do I want to travel every day to go to work, what is the purpose? What is the meaning of that? The piece will be more contemplation, reflection, questioning and introspection.”

He added that the play’s timeliness is important.

“I think COVID has also reminded us of the essence of what life is,” he said. “When I am in pain. When I am in anguish and insecurity. I will think of them.”

The show starts Tuesday at noon and is free although a vaccination passport is required for entry.