ULYSSES European Odyssey (UEO) is an epic project from 2022-2024 across 18 cities in 16 countries, producing artistic responses in public spaces to social and cultural themes identified in the 18 episodes of James Joyce’s Ulysses. At the same time, a cycle of 18 public symposia will be held in each city to produce 309 questions (Ulysses, Ep. 17) towards creating a new arts and society manifesto for Europe. The project also has 30 artist residencies which will contribute to a new book, Europe-Ulysses, alongside 18 new writing commissions, one writer from each city.
ULYSSES European Odyssey was inspired not only by Joyce’s European masterpiece, but also by his own ‘user’s guide’ to his book. Joyce wrote two schemas. His Gilbert schema in November 1921 to help his friend, Valery Larbaud, prepare a public lecture on the novel. And his Linati schema in 1920 to assist Carlo Linati understand the fundamental structure of the book.
In both schemas Joyce identifies places, times, colours, bodily organs, scientific and artistic disciplines and symbols for each episode. He also identified the chapter his episodes linked to in Homer’s The Odyssey. In the Gilbert schema he also gave each episode a ‘technique’, ranging from narrative to monologues, narcissism to hallucination.
Arts Over Borders and Brave New World Producties took his schemas and added a further column: Contemporary European issues. Diving deep into each episode we found a modern day European (global) issue or urgency in each chapter. This 100 year old novel started to reveal itself in a new, compelling way. It took on, deep from within the very twists and turns of the main protagonist, Leopold Bloom’s journey around Dublin, a rich and provocative modern day relevance. ULYSSES European Odyssey was born.
Our next step was to match the contemporary European issue to a city. Sometimes a challenge but more often perfectly matched, we identified cities for each issue and thus for each episode. We tested the rationale for the matching before we identified our partners to ensure it all hung together.
The next step was to find a broad range of organisations whose artistic discipline or creative form would reflect the huge diversity of Joyce’s writing style in each episode. It was a search through our creative and professional contacts plus new discoveries, new artistic meetings. Conversations with people requesting recommendations and tips, online research (we developed the project during Covid) and conversations. Talking, sharing our ideas. Until finally we had our partners.
ULYSSES European Odyssey is a journey around Europe. Odysseus’s journey home. Bloom’s journey around Dublin. Joyce’s journey around literary form. And now, too, our journey through the novel, seen through the eyes of 18 cities, 18 contemporary European issues, 18 different creative disciplines and 18 contrasting organisations.