Performance art pioneer Marina Abramović has held a lifelong admiration for Greek opera singer Maria Callas (1923-1977). Following Abramović’s opera Seven Deaths of Maria Callas in Munich, the artist is now dedicating two shows to the singer across two galleries in central London.
Named Seven Deaths, the exhibition at the Lisson Gallery on Lisson Street presents a series of seven videos that depict Abramović dying seven times, set to the soundtrack of seven solos and arias by Callas. In each video, Abramović inhabits different characters — herself, Callas, as well as roles played by the opera singer. Working with long-term collaborator, Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe, Abramović draws on and changes elements of famous operas, whether it’s showing Desdemona throttled by a snake instead of being strangled by Othello’s hands, or having Tosca leap off the roof of a skyscraper instead of castle parapets.
Meanwhile, the Lisson Gallery on Cork Street will display seven lit alabaster self-portraits sculptures of Abramović inhabiting these different personae.
“Callas was my inspiration,” says Abramović. “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.”