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