Seven Deaths

2020-2021

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For thirty-one years, I have wanted to make a work dedicated to the life and art of Maria Callas. I have read all of her biographies, listened to her extraordinary voice and watched her on film. A sagittarius, like me, I have always been fascinated by her personality, her life — and her death.

Like so many of the characters she created on stage, she died for love. She died from a broken heart. Most operas end with the woman dying and more often than not, it is because of love. She will leap from precipices, burn, be strangulated stabbed or simply go mad.

I want to reenact the death scenes from seven operas — seven deaths that Maria Callas has died before me.

Marina Abramović

Detail of The Snake © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

Marina Abramović's fascination with the legendary soprano Maria Callas is the inspiration behind this new series, presented at Lisson Gallery for the exhibition 'Marina Abramović: Seven Deaths' (14 September - 30 October 2021).

Seven photographic plates feature Marina performing (sometimes through reinterpretation) the grisly ends of seven of Callas' most famous roles as an opera singer: consumption in La Traviata, falling in Tosca, strangulation in Otello, harakiri (a form of ritual suicide) in Madame Butterfly, stab wound in Carmen, madness in Lucia di Lammermoor and burned at stake in Norma.

The photos were processed by Oak Taylor Smith and Teresa Casado at Factum Arte and converted into depth maps that were CNC-milled on seven irregular slabs of 10 to 12cm-thick alabaster. In an elaborate play between ephemeral and material, tone is used as relief to produce optical effects in the viewer´s eye; a purpose-built net of LED backlights creates the illusion of a self-diffused light. 

Much like Marina's first production with Factum (Five Stages of Maya Dance, 2013), this series demonstrates the possibilities of working with translucent materials and lighting to create a multi-layered performance. 

About a decade ago I began to have long conversations about how to work with sculptural material, but also how to give it some life and have immateriality at the same time… The process of cutting [alabaster] in this certain way allows you to have the image from a distance, but the moment you approach it, the image disappears, literally deteriorates, in front of your eyes – it is actually the non-existence of the image.
Marina Abramović, on the Lisson Gallery website

Translucency test © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

One of the alabaster slabs, natural light © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

CNC milling of The Breath © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

Detail of the CNC milling © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

Detail of The Breath (natural light) © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

Detail of The Breath (half light) © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

Detail of The Breath (full back light) © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

The Breath, 104x88x12cm © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

The Snake, 105x85x12cm © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

The Fire, 87x76x12cm © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

The Poison, 112x95x12cm © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

The Knife, 108x94x12cm © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte

The Mirror, 120x101x12cm © Marina Abramovic; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Fall, 108x94x12cm © Marina Abramovic; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

© Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Arte


 

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