“I know they accuse me of arrogance, perhaps also of misanthropy, perhaps madness too.”
The Minotaur and me. It all began in 2001 when I was an art student with an interest in all things to do with fairytale and mythology. This became a fascination with one particular story, so much so it became the focus of my sculpture degree.
I was so into Asterion that I made a 2 metre tall minotaur skeleton. The creature was created mostly on my kitchen table as my work table in college was too small, and took me a whole year. When he was finished I laid him out on a dark velvet dais. Set up in a dimly lit room like an archeological museum display. While I was at it I made several little minotaur babies too, curled up, sucking their thumbs. And I wrote a 15,000 word dissertation. This was high level fangirling indeed.
These days my Asterion lives in cardboard boxes in my basement. But you only have to say the word “Minotaur” and I’m up in the air like a hungry hound.
And so the word Minotaur got said recently and whoop! up when the ears, nose started twitching, maybe I even drooled a little but I’ll not own up if I did.
Le Gardien du Temple is a loose reworking of the Jorge Luis Borges story, La Casa de Asterion. Told with a 14 metre, 47 tonne articulated, mechanical minotaur. Over 4 days Asterion lost himself in the labyrinthine streets of Toulouse, until, with the help of Ariane/Ariadne, he finds a temple and settles down to his new life. Or something like that.
My energy levels are still a bit dodgy these days, so although I dearly wanted to watch the entire spectacle for four days, in reality I know I could only manage one.
What an awesome day it was. An orchestra raised on a platform high above the streets following the action. Ariane appears in the form of a giant spider, and the 16-strong team required to operate her are abseiled into position. And finally, the sleeping Asterion awakes. Breathing steam from his nostrils, batting his long eyelashes open. His flanks heaving in and out with every breath. Hand carved in wood, inlaid with brass, he is an astonishing work of art and engineering. As Asterion and the entire procession continue down the road, we get split up from one another in the crowd.
Now it’s just me and Milla running into a heaving, impenetrable crowd. Pushchairs, bicycles, dogs all lost in the mêlé too. We really want to get to the front. So we hold hands and work our way forward through the wall of people. Sometimes it seems we’ll never get ahead, we watch from behind as he sprays water from his nostrils onto the spectators leaning out on balconies. We see his enormous, dextrous hands move the traffic lights out of the way, pull branches from overhanging trees.
Despite exhaustion, despite undone shoelaces I can’t possibly bend down in this crowd to do up, we carry on with grit and determination. If anyone deserve to see this it’s you Mum, said Milla.
Finally we make it to the front, getting past everyone we stand right underneath the Minotaur. He’s tired out, and he bends down towards us and mists us with vapour, as the music becomes a lullaby. I’m feeling all the feels that are possible to feel, and it is magical. He still captures my heart 17 years on.