Events News Press
04 September, 2023


PRESS RELEASE / Monday 4 September 2023                                                      ulysseseurope.eu

metamorphoSEA, Eleusis, Greece, 26-30 September 2023

Polluting ship graveyard just 21 kilometres from Athens

Commissioned as part of ULYSSES European Odyssey

Co-produced by CHORUS and Brave New World Producties

Presented as part of Eleusis European Capital of Culture 2023

The city of Eleusis European Capital of Culture 2023, will host the world premiere of metamorphoSEA, a site-specific artistic intervention directed by Dutch director Sjoerd Wagenaar that confronts thedystopian ship graveyard in the Bay of Vlycha off the Greek coast. Just 21 kilometres away from Athens, dozens of ships have been dumped in the sea over decades, to decay and rust with serious environmental consequences.

Commissioned as part of ULYSSES European Odyssey, metamorphoSEA draws on the tradition of the Eleusinian Mysteries – regarded as the most sacred religious rites of ancient Greece – and is a promenade performance presented in public spaces on the docks overlooking the decaying ships.

It responds to Oxen of the Sun, the fourteenth episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which focuses on the sacredness of birth and purity. Eleusis was the main seat of worship for Demeter and Persephone, with rituals that revolved around a belief in life after death and a ceremony where hopeful initiates were shown the seed of life in a stalk of grain.

The city of Eleusis plays a pivotal economic role in Greece, contributing roughly 30% to its GDP. The Bay of Vlycha is situated between Greece’s largest oil refinery and a major cement factory. The expansion of these industries has notably impacted the coastal region, resulting in a distinct divide between the city, the people that live there and the shoreline.

Committed residents traverse the cement factory grounds daily, to assert the road as a public right of way, aiming to ensure coastal access and connect the city to its western zone. Yet, this route ultimately leads to the ship graveyard, shining a light on environmental concerns and the unsettling sight of abandoned, polluting and occasionally perilous, vessels.

metamorphoSEA is an artistic approach to participatory action in which local communities, artists, environmentalists and local experts collaborate to imagine a better future. It also brings together Greek and Dutch artists as part of an international exchange of skills, creative practice and experience.

metamorphoSEA is a co-production between CHORUS, a non-profit organisation founded in Eleusis in 2016 by active citizens to bridge the gap between arts, education and social issues, and Netherlands based Brave New World Producties and has been commissioned as part of ULYSSES European Odyssey, the three-year, multi-arts cultural programme inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses, which involves 18 cities in 16 countries from across Europe and runs until June 2024.

In Book 12 of Homer’s Odyssey, Oxen of the Sun, Circe warns Odysseus’ men not to touch the sacred cows of the god Helios, but they succumb to their ravenous greed and slaughter the animals for food. For their violation, Zeus punishes them with death. Joyce’s transposes this warning about sacredness through his narrative about a woman giving birth in a hospital surrounded by the ribaldry of young insensitive men. Joyce placed the purity of human creation and by extension the artistic creative act as the pinnacle of humanity. Eleusis, Greece’s ancient sacred city with its seas now deeply affected by decommissioned ships, was selected to be part of ULYSSES European Odyssey, because it symbolises a warning that the ecology of our planet is sacred and should not be violated.

Through metamorphoSEA, the people of CHORUS are driven by the aspiration to glean insights and reflections concerning questions as profound as, “How do we envision the sea of Eleusis? What stories do the Eleusinians have to tell about it? Do they long for it? Have they ever swum in it? Is Eleusis thought of as a seaside city?“. It serves as a clarion call, recognising the captivating yet inexplicably confined Gulf of Eleusis, a realm persistently rekindled by awe-inspiring sunsets, demanding our attention. Or perhaps, in truth, it is we who are in dire need of its tranquil solace and rejuvenating presence.

Claudia Woolgar, co-founder of Brave New World Producties, which is Lead Partner of ULYSSES, European Odyssey, says: “When I first visited Vlycha as part of a Tandem Cultural Capitals’ programme, I was profoundly shocked that such an environmental scandal could exist in the seas of one of Europe’s main tourist destinations. Local activists have been vocal about the dumped ships for years, but sadly little has happened as a result. Activist demonstrations often isolate communities, alienate local government, and move little or nothing forward. Together with CHORUS, we wanted to imagine a positive voice. A fresh and creative voice. A voice which works to seek solutions, a new vision. A voice which inspires. We hope metamorphoSEA will be this voice.”

metamorphoSEA performances run daily, 26-30 September. It is free for audiences to attend, but places need to be booked in advance. More information can be found here.

For more information about the production, including interview, attendance and press trips, please contact Yannis Pappas at CHORUS: [email protected] / +30 210 220 1691

For information about the full ULYSSES European Odyssey programme, please contact Ben McKnight: [email protected] / +44 (0) 7716 778 850 [if email is missing please refresh the page]

Notes to editors

Sjoerd Wagenaar

Sjoerd Wagenaar is based in a rural area in the north of the Netherlands. His work is usually site-specific and site generic and is working with different art disciplines and different science faculties. He trained as a furnisher, window dresser, theatre technician, audio-visual artist, scenography and director. He achieved a master in fine arts in Amsterdam.

In 1998 Sjoerd founded the PeerGrouP and was artistic director until September 2017. In 2016 he founded a new company, St House of Nature and started D:DNA, Dutch Development Centre for Natural Arts. Internationally, Sjoerd has worked with different artists and companies in Japan, Denmark, France, Indonesia, Germany, USA, Great Britain, Wales, Senegal, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Suriname.

Sjoerd advises various companies and governments on change and innovation policies. He has taken part in the advisory and the culture council of the Netherlands state forest company (SBB). He also sits on the advisory council for the magazine Noorderbreedte. He is an active member of the VNO-NCW North for Culture and works along with different organizations like Dutch ministry EL&I, DLG, Nature monuments, and the local Drenthe Landscape. In 2017 he started working with FRA: European Union Agency for Fundamental Right. Austria. And advises on funding organisations in the Netherlands.

Sjoerd also teaches occasionally at HKU Utrecht, AHK Amsterdam, Frank Mohr Institute Groningen, Minerva Groningen, Artez Arnhem/Zwolle, Rietveld Academy Amsterdam, DasArts Amsterdam, NHL Leeuwarden, Pop Academy Leeuwarden and La FAIR Marseille France.

Since 2012 he has become a beekeeper and forest expert. His work and interest lie in creating connecting between culture, agriculture, nature, gastronomy and sociology anthropology and landscape, with the aim of sustainability.

“The work can be described as site-specific art/theatre in a socially engaged manner. Every site and every location has a history and specific features. The first focus lays on the people who ‘own’ the environment. These people are the key to the specific stories, the conflicts, the celebrations, and ceremonies. With every new project, We start off as an outsider. Over the years we have developed a special approach to bridge this gap: Integrate and infiltrate. In this approach, they are working on a site and trying to find a (temporary) place in the community. By making use of the local artistic skills and fascinations, curiosity awakens.

The fascinations are often not ‘theatrical’ in an obvious way. Agriculture, landscape, food, nature, craftsmanship. Topics like these require a different kind of research for finding the stories which have a ‘theatrical’ quality. Therefore, we are doing research on people in a variety of professions. Sometimes they even learn the specific skills of those professions. We continuously keep confronting ourselves with the reality of their subjects, trying to find the ‘true’ stories. And we also keep developing new site-specific (artistic) methods, and new approaches to work with. We select the stories and materials allowing to create an event which is specific and universal at the same time. The artwork becomes an event where an audience without knowledge of the specific site can enjoy watching or to experience.


CHORUS is a non-profit organisation founded to build a bridge between arts, education and society. It was established in 2016 in Eleusis by active and engaged citizens active in the cultural, creative and educational sectors.

Its mission is to promote humanitarian principles and values, to trigger public debate and mobilise the public on key social issues, to support the proactiveness of the Civil Society, as well as to foster respect for the rights of each individual through contemporary artistic creation, education and cultural activity in general. In order to design and implement its projects, it collaborates with teams, organisations and individuals within and beyond Greece.

The name of CHORUS comes from the chorus of the Ancient Greek drama. The chorus -the public opinion of the ancient city- plays a leading role in drama through speech, music and movement. It defines the play’s atmosphere, establishes its heroes and clarifies the poet’s message to the audience. The Greek chorus frames the action of every tragedy, comedy or satyr play.

All the CHORUS members believe that socially active citizens can -and must- shape the future with their words, passion, and attitude towards life.

CHORUS extends a welcoming hand to all those who are eager to take a stand and contribute to the realisation of their desires, deepest longings, and dreams through collective processes and with the assistance of an established entity.

Brave New World Producties

Brave New World Productions (BNWP) was founded in January 2019 by two former colleagues from Leeuwarden-Friesland European Cultural Capital 2018 – Claudia Woolgar and Jan van Erve. The year 2018 was a fantastic cultural year for everyone in Friesland, but it is now behind us and we are looking to the future. What do we want to keep alive in the years leading up to  the cultural capital anniversary in 2028? What we now go on to dream, create and realise must be the on-going proof of how successful LF2018 was.

BNWP wants to be part of the post-2018 movement and our mission is threefold:
1. to programme international projects in Friesland with
2. strong ties to young and new artists in the region, and
3. always in a unique location to reach as broad a public as possible.

About ULYSSES European Odyssey

ULYSSES European Odyssey is a three-year, transnational and multi-disciplinary programme inspired by James Joyce’s landmark novel, which runs until June 2024. It includes public events, interventions and symposia in 18 cities in 16 countries: Athens, Berlin, Budapest, Cluj, Copenhagen, Derry-Donegal, Dublin, Eleusis, Istanbul, Leeuwarden, Lisbon, Lugo, Marseille, Oulu, Paris, Trieste, Vilnius and Zurich.

Highlighting the contemporary relevance of Joyce’s work, partners in each city are taking one episode of Ulysses to explore contemporary issues facing Europe, including citizenship and democracy; migration; youth; Europe’s ageing population; social media; food production and sustainability; education; religion and social co-existence; gender freedom; the environment; mental health; and neighbourhoods and community.

Cross-sector symposia in each city will result in chARTer 309, a new democratic exploration of the relationship between arts and society, to be published in 2024. 30 artist exchange residencies are also taking place, and 18 writers from different literary genres and each city have been commissioned to contribute to EUROPE-ULYSSES (working title), a new book also to be published next year.

ULYSSES European Odyssey was conceived and originated by Lead Artistic Partner ARTS OVER BORDERS (Ireland’s acclaimed presenting body for cross-border arts festivals). They have developed the project with Lead Partner Netherlands-based Brave New World Producties (established after Leeuwarden-Friesland European Capital of Culture 2018 with the aim of investing in young artists through international collaborations in non-traditional settings), working with partners in each of the 18 cities. ULYSSES European Odyssey is funded through an award from the European Commission’s Creative Europe Fund.

For further information, please visit the ULYSSES European Odyssey website, or email [email protected] [if email is missing please refresh the page].

ULYSSES European Partners: 

Arena Ensemble (PT)
Blaagaard Teater (DK)
Babes-Bolyai University, Faculty of Theatre and Film (RO)
Brave New World Producties (NL)
Budapest Brand nZrt (HU)
Commune di Trieste (IT)
Create.Act.Enjoy (RO)
Critical+Xwhy Agency (LT)
Fundación Uxío Novoneyra (ES)
gethan&myles and Collectif ildi ! eldi (FR)
Lumo Light Festival (FI)
Museo Joyce Trieste (IT)
Museum of Literature Ireland, MoLI (IE)
Noorderlicht (NL)
Rimini Protokoll (DE)
Teatrul National Lucian Blaga din Cluj-Napoca (RO)
Vilnius City Museum (LT)
Yalan Dünya Films Ltd. (TR)

Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland

Provinsje Fryslân