Lisson Gallery presents Marina Abramović alabaster works for TEFAF Online
31 August 2021
Marina Abramović has been obsessed with famous Greek soprano Maria Callas’s music and myth since a youthful encounter with her voice proved to be a culturally formative experience for the artist, who cites Callas’s heart-rending personal life and lonely death as chilling echoes of her own lost loves and near-death experiences. Following the production of Abramović’s ambitious live action opera, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, which premiered last year in Munich, the artist continues her exploration of her ties to the talented and tragic figure of Callas in two exhibitions at Lisson Gallery in London this September. A new immersive cinematic experience, Seven Deaths, will be accompanied by a series of seven carved alabaster self-portraits of the same name relating to these lethal vignettes.
Lisson Gallery’s TEFAF online presentation highlights three of these alabaster works – The Snake, The Breath, and The Mirror (all 2020/2021) – that see the artist inhabit different personae including herself, Callas, the jilted bride or the sacrificial paramour, among others – each of which face their own emotional, operatic endings.
The photo-realistic forms, which seem to dissolve into abstract peaks and troughs upon closer inspection, 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. The Breath, for example, signifies the slow suffocation of the heroine in Verdi’s La Traviata. The Mirror represents the all-consuming madness of the haunted and fragile Lucia di Lammermoor, while The Snake appears to constrict Abramović’s neck in her portrayal of Desdemona as a stand in for Othello’s hands. In placing herself at the centre of these traumatic, theatrical outpourings of loss, love and longing, Abramović honours and inhabits the spirit of the virtuoso soloist Callas, also suggesting that these roles can be reversed, re-imagined and renewed by future generations of performers.
TEFAF Online runs from 9 – 13 September.