By Ioanna Blatsou
Marina Abramovic loves Greece and is a regular visitor to the country, which reminds the artist of her homeland, Serbia. Abramovic also loves Maria Callas, both in terms of the imprint of the diva’s oeuvre on the field of opera performance, as well as on her own life, which has been filled with grief.
“Callas said that when you perform, half of your brain has to be extremely conscious and the other half extremely free. That really struck a chord. Callas’s statement has opened a whole universe for me and I thought I should do a project about ‘La Divina,’” the Serbian performance artist told a packed auditorium during a master class at the Onassis Cultural Center recently. Indeed, her project is being realized in the form of a film. Titled “Seven Deaths,” the production focuses on seven opera heroines, among them Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Medea, all of whom die from the kind of love that Callas embodied.
According to the Greek producers of the film, which is expected to be largely shot in Greece, Abramovic adores Callas, almost identifies with her, especially in terms of the heartache that she has experienced as a woman. They added that Abramovic’s research into the project started three years ago.
Seven video performances
Abramovic will not only embody Callas but also the opera heroines that the Greek soprano so uniquely personified on stage. The original film production will consist of seven 10-minute video performances that focus on the operatic death scene of each heroine in every libretto. The production is based on a modular structure, while the seven distinct art films are interrelated via a shared narrative, a kind of common thread. Each 10-minute video performance will be overseen by a different director, photography director, set and costume designer. Abramovic is expected to work with internationally acclaimed directors such as Roman Polanski and Pedro Almodovar, while the Greek production team would like to see a Greek director included as well.
In addition to the aforementioned artists, the roster of directors could also include Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Lars von Trier and Wes Anderson, among others, although the list has yet to be confirmed.
The production team might very well wish to engage the talents of Yorgos Lanthimos, Alexandros Avranas or Athina Rachel Tsangari, given that all three Greek directors have attained significant accomplishments abroad. The project could also be an ideal commission for the Greek master of physical theater, Theodoros Terzopoulos, internationally renowned for his distinctive performance method. Ultimately, however, the decision will rest with Abramovic.
What is certain is that among the international collaborators of this ambitious production is Italian fashion designer Riccardo Tisci, creative director of Givenchy womenswear and haute couture collections and a close friend of Abramovic, who will design the costumes for one of the films.
The film will also make use of new technologies in impressive ways, similar to productions such as “Gravity.” Most of the shooting, which is scheduled to commence next spring, will take place in Greece, at emblematic sites that bear a connection to Callas as well as the seven operas.
Gerasimos Kappatos, who has represented Abramovic in Greece for over 20 years, is in charge of the film’s production, together with his associate Dr Sozita Goudouna. The two also asked Thanos Argyropoulos, a film producer who is currently in Los Angeles working on the project, to join them. Another member of team is Italian Max Brun, who is acting as production associate. Funding the movie are eminent diaspora Greeks as well as international art and film foundations.
The producers told Kathimerini that Abramovic would like to see part of the film’s revenues support a Greek institution related to Maria Callas and provides scholarships to emerging opera artists, adding that they are also in contact with the Greek Ministry of Culture’s general secretary, Lina Mendoni. “‘Seven Deaths’ is perhaps the largest international film production ever to take place in Greece, which is why we would like to have the support of these public institutes institutions,” they said.
Meanwhile, starting on June 9, Abramovic is scheduled to start a series of appearances at London’s Serpentine Gallery. She will spend eight hours there every day for 65 days in her first major performance following her 2010 stint at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in a work called “The Artist is Present.” In London, she will push the artistic boundaries of her performance even further and encounter the audience in an empty space. In contrast to the MoMA performance, she will not confront individual spectators but the audience as a whole. No one knows how this new performance, “The Current,” will evolve, but it will be based on improvisation. Gearing up for the performance, Abramovic is currently being taught by shaman healers whom she often meets in Brazil. She meditates with them, practices detox therapies in complete self-isolation and silence, while also exploring human energy meridians that enable the body to perform its natural healing process. In addition, she teaches magnetic energy practices and magnetic therapy to her students and through this process prepares herself for her new artistic projects.
The performer’s new creative dream is the Marina Abramovic Institute (www.mai-hudson.org), a nonprofit platform for immaterial art and long durational work located in Hudson, New York, and whose realization will cost about 31 million dollars. She has already raised 600,000 dollars through crowdfunding – the largest amount ever raised for a cultural project via Kickstarter. Despite the fact that the building set to host MAI has yet to be renovated, the accomplished artist is ready to move in and start working on her famous Abramovic Method.