Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope who grew up in Thrace, a land long noted for the purity and richness of its divine gift of song. His father presented him with a lyre and thought him how to play it. So lovely were the songs of Orpheus that even the wild beasts followed him when he played, and even the trees, the rocks, and the hills would gather near him. It wass said his music softened the composition of stones.

One day his eyes fell on a wood nymph. The girl was called Eurydice, she was beautiful and shy. She had been drawn to Orpheus enamoured by his voice and such was the spell of beauty in music and appearance that neither could cast their eyes off each other. Something inexplicable tugged the hearts of the two young people and soon they fell dearly in love, unable to spend a single moment apart. After a while, they decided to get married.Their wedding day dawned bright and clear. Hymenaios, the god of marriage, blessed their marriage and then a great feast followed. The surroundings were filled with laughter and gaiety until the moment came for the newly-weds to go their own way and depart for home.

There was one man who was despising Orpheus and desired Eurydice for his own. Aristaeus, a shepherd, had plotted a plan to conquer the beautiful nymph. And there he was, waiting in the bushes for the young couple to pass by. Seeing that the lovers were approaching, he intended to jump on them and kill Orpheus. As the shepherd made his move, Orpheus grabbed Eurydice by the hand and started running pell-mell through the forest. Suddenly, Orpheus felt Eurydice stumble and fall, her hand slipping from his grasp. Eurydice had stepped on a nest of snakes and had been bitten by a deadly viper. Knowing that there was no chance of survival, Aristaeus had abandoned his try, cursing his luck and Orpheus.

After the death of his beloved wife, Orpheus was no more the same carefree person he used to be. His life without Eurydice seemed endless and he could do nothing more than grief for her. He decided to go to Underworld and try to get his wife back. Armed with his weapons, the lyre and voice, Orpheus approached Hades and demanded entry into the underworld. He played his lyre and sang out to King Hades and Queen Persephone that Eurydice was returned to him. The voice of Orpheus was so moving that Hades promised Orpheus that Eurydice would follow him to the Upper World, the world of the living. However, he warned Orpheus that for no reason must he look back while his wife was still in the dark, for that would undo everything he hoped for. He should wait for Eurydice to get into the light before he looked at her.

With great faith in his heart and joy in his song, Orpheus began his journey out of the underworld, joyful that he would once again be reunited with his love. As Orpheus was reaching the exit of the Underworld, he could hear the footfalls of his wife approaching him. The moment he stepped on the world of the living, he turned his head to hug his wife. Unfortunately, he got only a glimpse of Eurydice before she was once again drawn back into the underworld. When Orpheus turned his head, Eurydice was still in the dark, she hadn’t seen the sun and, as Hades had warned Orpheus, his sweet wife was drowned back to the dark world of the dead.

From then on, the heart-broken musician was wandering disoriented, day after day, night after night, in total despair. His misfortune tormented him, forcing him to abstain from contact with any other woman and slowly but surely he found himself shunning their company completely. And so it was that a group of irate women, furious for his scorn towards them, chanced upon him. The women killed him, cut his body into pieces and threw them and his lyre into a river. His soul descended down to Hades where he was finally reunited with his beloved Eurydice.

Orpheus & Eurydice

Inspired by the Greek methodology of Orpheus, Heleen Peeters created an installation of life size photograms.

The anonymous persons portrayed in the photograms represent Eurydice as well as an underlying notion of the shadow, which can be considered to be an archetype for subconsciously hidden personal qualities. To make this project the artist encompassed the creative possibilities of light and chemistry whereby she purposely chose to badly fixate the photograms. This way the image slowly fades away, whereby the shadows will disappear to total darkness.

Orpheus & Eurydice is a manifestation for a longing to a lost half that would make us complete. This installation of photograms is a melancholic replacement of something absent, for a longing to make what is, or what will be, reappear, nevertheless in the end still dies.

- Television interview, Zine Zomert: Tentoonstelling Open M, Ring TV, July 15th 2011
- Onbekende kunstenaars veroveren museum M, Het Nieuwsblad, July 9th 2011
- Open M, 120 pages, exhibition catalogue, 2011
- Ithaka 19, 64 pages, exhibition catalogue, 2011

2011 - Open M. Staying Long Enough - Leaving on Time, Museum M. Leuven, Belgium
2011 - Ithaka 19, Visual Arts Festival, Leuven, Belgium