Oedipus, The King of Thebes (you may recognise him for his dubious legacy, the ‘Oedipus complex’) is known for fulfilling the tragic prophecy of killing his own father Lauis, and marrying his own mother, Jocasta.

This tragic myth, Oedipus the King, begins when a deathly plague overtakes Thebes and Oedipus sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to seek help from the oracle at Delphi. Creon returns with a prophecy from the oracle: The plague will end once the murderer of Laius, the previous King of Thebes, is caught. This murderer, Creon tells us, lives within the city walls. Oedipus brings it upon himself to solve the oracle’s riddle, only to find out that he himself is both Laius’s murderer and son. If this wasn’t enough, this realisation is followed by the unavoidable truth that his wife and co-parent, Jocasta, is also therefore his mother.

Oedipus the King, named after the doomed main character, heavily focuses on the tragedy inflicted on Oedipus - but what about Jocasta? In fact, Jocasta (who doesn’t feature in the play until its halfway point,) figures out that she has fulfilled the prophecy way before Oedipus himself has come to the same conclusion. Jocasta, the mother who has lost her son, only to find him years later as her husband, and who has lived with the dreaded prophecy much longer than Oedipus has, is so distraught that she takes her own life.

It takes two to tango - fulfilling this prophecy was the work of both husband and wife (or mother and son) so why are we so fixated on Oedipus alone? Why are we implored to empathise with the King of Thebes, but encouraged to brush over Jocasta’s pain and death as merely collateral damage in the devastating demise of our hero? Evidencing this, Oedipus’ horrific self mutilation, the gouging out of his own eyes, is performed front and centre stage, whereas Jocasta’s suicide occurs behind the curtain.

Not only is Jocasta invisible in the play, depictions of her are hard to find from the ancient Greek world to the present. Natalie Haynes notes, “she has committed the ultimate sin against art: she is an older woman. And while painters never tire of showing us women and girls in their twenties or teens, they tend to be far less keen to show us a woman in her forties or fifties.” (2020:54)

Despite being invisible, how can contemporary depictions of Jocasta showcase her as a complex, powerful and clever woman, informed by the multitude of her years? How can an older woman like Jocasta be perceived and portrayed in the modern world?

What we want to know is:
Who is Jocasta today?

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How to Apply

Please submit your proposals to contact.kleio.collective@gmail.com by 11:59PM SUN 22 AUGUST 2021 Sucessfull submission will be presented in an online exhibition on our website, here on www.kleiocollective.co.uk , launching in September 2021.

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