Marina Abramović: Seven Deaths
London, 14 September – 17 October 2021
This exhibition has now closed. Marina Abramović's Seven Deaths film is on view at Lisson Gallery on Lisson Street until 30 October.
Marina Abramović opened two shows in central London this autumn (this one in Cork Street and another in Lisson Street), presenting the culmination of her lifelong passion and empathy for the talented and tragic figure of singer Maria Callas (1923-1977). Abramović has created Seven Deaths, a new, immersive cinematic experience for the main gallery at Lisson Street, based on seven untimely demises she undergoes on screen, set to the moving soundtrack of seven Callas solos. Each aria is accompanied by the protagonist’s grisly end, albeit adding a new twist or some fresh interpretation in each case. In Cork Street, Abramović exhibited seven alabaster sculptures relating to these lethal vignettes, which are also self-portraits of the artist inhabiting different personae – herself, Callas, the jilted bride or the sacrificial paramour, among others – each facing their own emotional, operatic endings.
Every dramatic killing is transmitted through the imagery encapsulated in an ethereal alabaster portrait, the photo-realistic features of which seem to dissolve into abstract peaks and troughs upon closer inspection. “The results are amazing because you have this feeling that you can touch it, you can feel the skin of the snake, you have this tactile sense. And then everything disappears in nothingness when you have a close view of the pieces.” They are in fact intricately milled from single, natural blocks of stone, the light suffusing the translucent interiors with distinct, internal, performative lives of their own.
Just as the film merges seamlessly with the live-action opera as projections, so the sculptures too become part of the Seven Deaths as a total work of art, traversing through screen to stone, performance and song. “We tried many different things and finally, we ended up using alabaster because it has rigidity, but also transparency – it both keeps the light within and can be illuminated by light.”
These two exhibitions and their themes coincide with the tour of Abramović’s ambitious live action opera, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, which is travelling from its delayed 2020 premiere at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, to the Opéra National de Paris (1-4 September 2021) and then on to the Greek National Opera in Athens (24-29 September), while 2022 dates include the Deutsche Oper Berlin (8-10 April) and Real Teatro San Carlo in Naples (13-15 May).
Works on view
Callas was my inspiration… I felt such a powerful identification with her. Like me, she was a Sagittarius; like me, she had a terrible mother. We bore a physical similarity to each other. And though I had survived heartbreak, she died from a broken heart. In most operas, at the end, the heroine dies from love.
22 Cork Street
Tuesday – Saturday: 11:00am – 6:00pm