The chorus in Euripides' HEKABE is comprised of Trojan women, enslaved by the Greeks after the sacking of Troy. In the choral odes, they mourn alongside their queen, Hekabe, whose miserable fate unravels on the stage. The chorus laments one night, the last night, the final calm: their husbands asleep, they sit in front of the mirror, binding their hair. And then a cry, a scream, a roar. The mirror that - a moment before - aided a placid nightly ritual now reflects the women's panicked rush to the altar of Artemis, who cannot save them. The chorus sings in unison of this shared, but solitary, experience using the personal, singular pronoun, "I".
HEKABE is a brutal play. Troy falls; men are slaughtered; women enslaved. Hekabe's young daughter is sacrificed to appease the ghost of Achilles; her only remaining son killed by the family friend enlisted to protect him. In one of the final scenes, this murderer is lured into the slave women's quarters. There, the chorus and Hekabe stab out his eyes, acting as a single fury.
In HEKABE, selves, their excretions, and their belongings tip through time in a variety of containers, each leaking into the others. The Greeks infiltrate the skin of Troy in the skin of a horse. In the final scene, the queen is reminded by the blinded man that she has long been fated to be reincarnated in the skin of a dog.
Beyond the stage is no different. Our skins -- stacked in buildings and, more closely, in beds -- shed sweat that will return to the clouds. Our data are stored inside different clouds. These clouds (actually stacks of servers), our stacked skins, and the sweat-sourced clouds on the horizon -- threatening another superstorm -- contain and are contained by what Benjamin Bratton calls the "accidental megastructure" of the Stack.
How we understand ourselves as singular or various entities has much to do with how we define our containers and our contained. A feeling of balanced cohesion rests in the precarious nesting and arbitrary-but-convincing demarcation of these containers. When we feel this cohesion crumbling -- a roar in the streets -- we struggle to find a different pattern of nesting that will result in a return to stability. Until this new balance is struck, the once-cohered self, and the mirror in front of which it sits, split and split.
The growing multitude of voices spread rumors of new configurations that might appease the roar, thereby re-orchestrating the synchronisation of so many hands. When a unifying configuration is finally achieved, it binds all of the voices into a tidy braid, which is reflected in a single mirror, inside a tidy room, inside a tidy house, inside a tidy city.
Beyond the city, in a field recently emptied of lumber, are the tools used to build the Trojan horse, which will be used again to erect temporary slaves' quarters. Inside one, a man's eyes will be plucked from his skull. Somewhere else entirely, an unborn dog cannot emerge from a womb until it receives a soul, which is still nested inside a queen, sitting in front of a mirror, binding her hair. But just outside her gates waits a wooden horse.
- Claire Tolan, Berlin, 2016