A symposium on love in modern times

Luka the poet will present Agapi and Other Kinds of Love, based on Plato's The Symposium, at the National Museum of Australia with Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors, and Heroes as a backdrop on 27, 28 and 29 April

Luka, the Brisbane based Greek Australian poet, will perform his new work, Agapi and Other Kinds of Love, at the National Museum of Australia.

His adaptation of Plato’s The Symposium will have the Museum’s Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes as a backdrop – statues, objects, and reliefs that date back thousands of years.

Luka derives a transgressive pleasure performing hip hop with new cinematic sounds by James Humberston from the Sydney Conservatorium.

“In a pristine place where culture is behind glass, I want to bring it all to life.

“The Museum is setting up a stage in the atrium foyer for three nights [27, 28 and 29 April] we’re going to have a set with a big, beautiful, backdrop that is inspired by ancient Greece, and the stage is inspired by Exarhia riots in Athens during the 2008 economic crisis.”

In Plato’s Symposium the participants try to define love in all its forms. All but Socrates agree that erotic love between an older man and a younger man, is more salient than the love of a woman.

Alcibiades, Socrates’ aristocratic young lover, and radical, arrives at the Symposium drunk. He begins to humiliate Socrates. In response the older philosopher says that the only one who has taught him the real meaning of love is a woman called Diotima, a prophetess.

“Socrates is the only one that references a woman and how she taught him the completeness of love, or agapi.”

Luka. All photos: AGAPI AND OTHER KINDS OF LOVE/Supplied

Socrates elevates a woman when loving a woman was considered less worthy than erotic love between males.

“I decided to focus on that speech alone, and on that relationship, and not follow the Symposium verbatim but use that association they had to extrapolate love in modern times.”

“I did think at some point that I could do a show of me and five other dudes rapping the Symposium but I’m just like ancient artists who would pick a moment and reinvent it, and I fell in love with some books recently that focus on female perspectives in ancient Greece and see this as a way to refocus on women.”

“I deal with ancient texts, ancient ideas but give them contemporary delivery and twists – I use hip hop, spoken word, poetry, and new music.”

In Agapi and Other Kinds of Love, Luka decided that Socrates and Diotima were in love, and that love is to be represented by two young lovers hanging out in modern Athens’ inner suburb of Exarhia – the central Athens hub of art and protest.

Luka reflects on the Greek Financial Crisis and on December 6, 2008, when cops shot dead a 15-year-old protester, Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

“In my work two young lovers, Pavlos and Sofia, are modern representations of Socrates and Diotima, they move to the Areopagus, where Socrates taught from, on the Acropolis, and talk about love, as Athens burns below.

“Socrates talks about a woman who he used to be in love with, like the lovers Pavlos and Sofia in modern Athens, so we switch back and forth between the ancient and the moderns.”

Luka. All photos: AGAPI AND OTHER KINDS OF LOVE/Supplied

Luka is an “ancient modern” and the marriage between the ancient and modern has been on his mind for a long time.

“When I was asked to perform at the National Museum with all the ancient objects, I realised that they weren’t ancient, but objects of once contemporary times.”

Luka has worked on links between First Nations’ people and Greeks, and realised that “our artefacts from ancient times where once everyday objects.”

“Those we consider ancient also talk about their own ancients – the Iliad and the Odyssey were ancient for them – these epic poems were over 1000 years older than Classical Greece and were about people in the Bronze Age.”

Some time ago he wrote a poem called The Future Ancients, the idea being that one day, in the future, people are “going to look back at all of us as the ancients”.

Luka asks, “So, how do we act and how do we want to live with that in mind?”


Luka’s work on the chaos and burning of Athens in 2008 is like Plato’s Symposium written seven years after the event. Alcibiades, Socrates’ young lover, led an aristocratic youth revolt for which Socrates paid the ultimate price, death. Plato’s Symposium was written when things had calmed down in Athens. Luka’s work is also many years after the financial collapse of Greece. Reuters has just reported that ‘Greece is back in the good books’, and the financial markets are happy to lend Greece money, the arts are booming, and things are better.

Luka is a poet and possibly one of the poets that Plato may have banned in his theoretical Republic, where Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes were banished.

In the National Museum of Australia, the athletes, warriors, and heroes will have their ancient gaze fixed on Luka and his new Symposium on Agapi, love.

For tickets and information visit www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/ancient-greeks/agapi-and-other-kinds-of-love-performance