Aphrodite’s Left Turn is inspired by an unrealised scenario by Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965). In autumn 2009 whilst researching the life and work of Kiesler in Berlin, Dowd discovered the following account, written by the polymath’s wife:
“To my astonishment he told me he [Kiesler] had composed a choreography and structured a film. Long after his death I found both, as working projects, in his archives. There were scripts and many drawings for both. The choreography was entitled “Ballet Massacre d’art”, the film “Aphrodite’s Left Turn”. For the film he had carefully worked out shot-by-shot drawings, sound descriptions, etc., and he had selected the cast. Edwin Denby was cast as THE YOUNG MAN, John Latouche as THE CHOIR BOY, Elissa Landi as APHRODITE, and his cat Sing-Sing as THE CAT. The prologue for the film started with:
First man (voice) “Diogenes was a philosopher because he knew how to live. He also solved the housing questions for everyone.You know, slum clearance of the brain and city.”
– Lillian Kiesler, from the introduction to ‘Endless Innovations. Frederick Kiesler’s Theory and Scenic Design’
This account prompted Dowd to invite four collaborators to take on the task of re-inventing these characters, each writing the dialogue for one of the fictional beings whilst simultaneously inhabiting the guise of the originally intended cast member (all of whom, save ‘Sing-Sing’, were also writers in some capacity). Dowd provided the settings and loose plot from which these dialogues were generated (alongside an archive of visual material) – with each writer working in isolation and Dowd editing the responses into this multivocal, fractured, yet uncannily cogent text.