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Callas Centennial tribute programme curator Giorgos Koumendakis
Unboxing Callas curator Vassilis Zidianakis
Artistic concept, execution Panos Profitis
Curatorial associate Steffi Stouri
Scientific advisor Sophia Kompotiati
Printed matter, an ongoing work-in-progress by Chrysanthi Koumianaki
Act ΙΙΙ was filmed by Yorgos Athanasiou
Acts Ι & ΙΙΙ feature the dancer Vera Zouka
Display case design José Ballerzosa
Production co-ordination Sophia Theodoraki
In partnership with ATOPOS cvc
Guided tours for groups of 15 lasting around an hour are to be given –in the Greek language– by installation team members, on these days and at these times:
Guided tours are free but require an entry ticket, available to book from Wednesday, 24 May at 12.00, exclusively via www.ticketservices.gr
Multi-format art installation
Opens 4 May at 18.30
Act ΙΙΙ screening times: 11.15-11.45, 13.15-13.45, 15.15-15.45, 18.15-18.45 daily
Lead Donor of the GNO & Maria Callas Tribute Donor
Maria Callas Tribute Sponsor
PPC (Public Power Company)
As part of the tribute to the centennial of Maria Callas’ birth
The first phase of the Greek National Opera’s visual arts programme marking the centennial of Maria Callas’ birth is to be presented from 4 May through until 9 June 2023 inside the GNO Foyer at the SNFCC: a multi-format art installation titled Unboxing Callas: From Callas to Medea, installation in three acts. This event forms part of the 2023 UNESCO Maria Callas Anniversary proposed by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.
The Unboxing Callas programme proposes an artistic and inter-disciplinary means of approaching, exploring, and understanding the legend that surrounds Maria Callas, presented as part of the Greek National Opera’s tribute programme marking the centennial anniversary of her birth. The Artistic Director of the GNO, Giorgos Koumendakis –curator of the GNO Maria Callas tribute– notes: “Via this multi-format art installation, which combines contemporary artworks with historical artefacts, I feel certain that new aspects and narratives touching on the work of Maria Callas, but also on her legend and colossal persona, shall emerge, elements that I hope we shall all –but the younger generation in particular– hold up as a shining example to be emulated.”
Maria Callas –the greatest opera artist of our times– re-introduced long-forgotten operas to audiences and, with her singular vocal and acting abilities, breathed new life into the opera arts. In the process, she forged a legend – one inspired by details of her life (both true and make-believe) but also by attributes of the roles she performed, such as Medea. The dynamic of this legend changes over time as it is approached afresh over and again, offering up and prompting new and different narratives.
This arts programme –inspired by the act of unboxing made popular by online communities, that is: a ritual process documenting first contact with an object– seeks to explore the legend that surrounds Maria Callas, tracing its course and contributing to our understanding of the phenomenon. Unboxing, a process that has proven hugely popular on the Internet over the last 15 years, is inherently performative: as a ritual or cultural practice, it manifests as a repeated –though distinct in each instance– rite and, in contrast to performance art, is founded on a form of object-centric demonstration.
Taking the new production of Medea as its point of departure, this first part of the Unboxing Callas programme sees Vassilis Zidianakis invite the visual artist Panos Profitis to undertake a multi-format art experiment titled From Callas to Medea, an installation in three acts. The installation is set across all levels of the GNO Foyer at the SNFCC, and is inspired by the magic of chance artistic and human encounters that occur inside this space. It forges new connections and unites aspects of the Medea myth with the legend surrounding Callas.
The Panos Profitis performance Act I (2023) creates his centrepiece sculptural installation –Act II (2023)– in real time. The entirely utilitarian process of installing and assembling the sculptural arrangement brings artistic production processes to the fore – actions not normally observed by the general public. This practical exercise offers visitors the chance to discover the Medea story in Callas’ striking, high-relief profile, her complex composite likeness transforming from an affectionate and passionate presence into a creature of unbridled rage. The shifts in her character are captured by means of a psycho-dramatic evolution of her form that unfolds on the surface of the sculpture. Within her high-relief profile, a series of visages and guises are revealed that allude to the metaphysical state that seizes hold of the lead character in the final act of the work, transforming Callas into Medea – a demonic being, and divine vengeance incarnate.
Act III (2023) runs simultaneously across all floors of the foyer, on screens tuned in to some unknown frequency that turn off, suddenly and without warning, at various times during the day. Celebrated physical movements made by Callas, drawn directly from the photographic archive documenting the Medea production, are acknowledged as gestures that, through their repetition, create a new, nigh-on-surreal retelling of the Medea myth.
The Foyer installation also presents exhibits drawn from the GNO archives, the Dimitris Pyromallis collection, and the archive of the eminent photographer Kleisthenes (Daskalakos), a section of which was recently acquired by the opera house, as well as items from the Performing Arts Department of the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ELIA) of the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET), and the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation. The selection of these archival materials relating to Maria Callas’ performances of Medea has been curated by Vassilis Zidiadakis.
The exhibited items carry historical significance due to the three key artists involved in their creation –Alexis Minotis, Yannis Tsarouchis, and Maria Callas– but also evoke a certain nostalgia for the analogue processes that were involved in designing and documenting this stage production. The intermixture of artefacts drawn from different archives seeks to tell lost stories relating to creative readings of the Medea myth. Drawings by Tsarouchis and fragments of his costumes drawn from the GNO Costume Collection, as well as the directorial notes and notebooks of Alexis Minotis, here enter into dialogue with select sketches and sculptural items –such as moulds and casts made by Panos Profitis– in what is an ongoing exploration of artistic takes on the Medea myth, without ever losing sight of how these intertwine with the legend surrounding Callas.
The connections between, and combinations of these artefacts chronicle the artistic production processes behind Medea, and overarchingly showcase Maria Callas as an artist: it is no secret that she herself expressed strong views when it came to both the staging and costumes of the production. Furthermore, within the framework of a preservation-oriented curatorial approach, all the exhibits have undergone conservation and are presented in specially-designed, sustainable display cases crafted inside the GNO’s Production Workshop.
The installation is also creatively charted by the artist Chrysanthi Koumianaki, who takes her inspiration from the movement notation created for the Medea production. This work of mapping invites visitors to discover the complex pathways, key turning points, and future trajectories of the myth by means of the discourse that arises between the presented archival materials and contemporary artworks.
Vassilis Zidianakis. A curator of fashion and contemporary art exhibitions, Zidianakis is the artistic director and co-founder of the ATOPOS cvc organisation. His curatorial practice is idiosyncratic and rooted in his ongoing efforts to explicate the Greek word atopos. His research first focused on clothing, with an emphasis on studying and showcasing cutting-edge contemporary fashion. He then turned his attentions to the embodied and narrative nature of the racial and gendered body, personal and collective trauma, memory, and systems of embodied knowledge, as well as the ways in which the body relates to social justice and environmentalism. For ATOPOS cvc, he created the #OccupyAtopos art project to support emerging artists, designers, curators, and thinkers. He has curated the exhibitions ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion and RRRIPP! Paper Fashion at the Benaki Museum (Athens), Mudam – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (Luxembourg), ModeMuseum – MoMu (Antwerp), La Gaîté Lyrique (Paris), and the Centraal Museum (Utrecht). As part of the tribute marking the centennial anniversary of Maria Callas’ birth, and within the framework of his new project Atopos Unbound, he is curating the arts programme of the Greek National Opera on the invitation of its Artistic Director, Giorgos Koumendakis.
Panos Profitis. Raised in a small town lying at the foot of Mount Parnassus, Profitis now lives and works in Athens. He holds an MA in Visuals Arts (2016) from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, and a BA from the Athens School of Fine Arts (2013). For his MA, he was the recipient of a NEON organisation scholarship, and for his MA thesis he was awarded the Hugo Roelandt Prize in 2016 by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, the Hugo Roelandt Estate, and Objectif Exhibitions. In 2020, he took part in the Hydra School Project curated by Dimitrios Antonitsis. He is a fellow of Artworks, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship Programme. In October 2018, he was selected for the Initiator artist-in-residence programme at 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture. He represented Greece at the Mediterranea 16 Young Artists Biennale in Ancona, Italy (2013), and worked as an artist collaborator for the Nigerian-born visual artist Otobong Nkanga as part of documenta 14. In 2017, he gave his first solo show at the Annie Gentils Gallery in Antwerp (Belgium) and has gone on to exhibit with the gallery at various art fairs (Art Rotterdam, YIA Maastricht, Art Brussels). His work has been presented as part of several solo and group exhibitions held in Greece and beyond.
Chrysanthi Koumianaki. An artist, Koumianaki lives and works in Athens. Her practice investigates the idea of translation, creating symbolic systems, codings, scores, and alphabets that focus on non-verbal communication. She reconsiders and manipulates rules and methods of a global visual language, creating new narratives which reflect upon different times. Her main body of work is made up of installations combining various media, such as prints, ephemeral drawings, video, sound, and metal constructions. Her work has been exhibited internationally as part of solo and group exhibitions presented at a range of institutions, museums, and galleries, including the NEON organisation, the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens – EMST, the Athens Biennale, the Benaki Museum (Athens, GR), Fondation Hippocrène and Kadist (Paris, FR), and Netwerk Aalst (BE). She has taken part in exhibitions organised by museums and foundations, as well as in research programmes and artist residencies, and is a fellow of Artworks, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship Programme. She is a co-founder of the 3 137 artist space in Athens. She has also been a participant in the Critical Practices Programme (Οnassis AiR, 2019-20) and Tailor-made Fellowships Programme (Οnassis AiR, 2022-23).
STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION
364 Syggrou Avenue, Kallithea
+30 213 0885700
Box Office email: