A Greek tragedy-inspired performance art piece about suffering and the absurd

It's a performance piece about life and death.

Based on the Greek myth "Sisyphus" Montreal artist Victor Pilon will shovel 300 tons of sand at the Olympic Stadium.

It’s a modern study in the absurdity and repetition of life, based on an old legend.

For angering Zeus, King of the gods, Sisyphus, a mere mortal, was condemned to a repetitive task for all eternity: to push a boulder up a mountain every day, just to see it roll back down.

Pilon swapped the boulder for sand.

“I said to myself, 'if Sisyphus pushes that boulder up the mountain and it comes down and smashes and breaks on eternity, what will it become? Sand,'" he said.

Starting Sept. 28, Pilon will shovel the equivalent of 300 tons of sand from one side of the East Hall at the Olympic Stadium to the other. It will take one month.

The one shovel he will use has a microphone in it, so the audience will hear and see each scoop.

"The shovel may be shared with others and I will see if they are willing to become Sisyphus, and to be a part of the experience of the absurd because it's totally absurd: doing something which doesn't end and doesn't accomplish anything," he said.

The spark for this project was the death of Pilon's longtime life partner, who died in a car accident.

He knows he will suffer while shovelling, but not as much as he has been since Sylvain died.

Pilon said his plan has touched a nerve with others who have lost a loved one.

One worker at the Big O approached him with her story.

“It's helping me through my grief," she said to Pilon. "I lost my child a few months ago."

"She just starts crying, I start crying," said Pilon. "I'll shovel for you and I'll shovel for your son."

While people watch, he wants them to also think.

"It’s a wake-up call: what do I want to do with my life," he said. "Do I want to travel every day to go to work, what's the purpose? What's the meaning of it? The piece will be more contemplation, reflection, questioning and introspection."

He added that the timeliness of the piece is important.

"I think that COVID also reminded us about the essence of what life is about," he said. "When I will be in pain. When I will be in anguish and insecure. I will think about them."

The performance begins Tuesday at noon, and is free though a vaccination passport is required for entry.