Sunday, 5 April 2020

Concept art in state opera

The Bavarian State Opera had prepared a production of concept art. But it had to be postponed, due to the corona epidemic. The production consisted of an ´opera project´ by Marina Abramovic: ´Seven Deaths of Maria Callas´.

For people, who are not much informed about the world of established concept art, it might be interesting and surprising to discover that Mrs Abramovic is not a composer. She is a concept performance artist.

The music going with this concept performance production consists of fragments of various classical composers, plus the work of Marko Nikodijevic:

Who is Mr Nikodijevic? He is a sonic artists with works specially created for people whose cultural horizon is only limited by blackness:

I think the sounds are beautiful and atmospheric, they include snippets of music, like recollections of folk music overheard in the real world of lonely villages in the Balkans where none of the concept art ideas find a warm welcome. It is a sonic impression, and in an opera production at best suited to a background atmosphere, nothing more.

It should be stressed that Maria Callas is definitely NOT taking part in this production since, unfortunately, she has died already many years ago.

The only truly musical parts will be played by composers who are as dead as Mrs Callas. Anybody still alive, deals with concept art.

The director of the Bavarian State Opera, Mr Bachler, insists:

´…… a project – albeit under the strictest of precautions for the safety of all involved – that links one of the greatest living artists, Marina Abramović, and the greatest singer of the post-war period, Maria Callas, and fathoms it as an encounter in death. This would have been of urgent necessity and relevance in times when death is repressed. In the moment when for many people it is really a matter of life and death, other questions arise – this has become particularly clear to me in the last few days.´

One can be forgiven for thinking that this production wants audiences to really understand that people are dying from corona virus infections, a bit of information that apparently has been repressed by the mainstream media today. It was a fate that Mrs Callas did not have to confront, as far as we know.

Mr Bachler concludes:

´Many positive images of the past weeks have come from creative people and artists. Therefore, we need art more than ever.´

For people with enough understanding of culture and, especially, serious music, this can only be fully agreed with. Therefore it is puzzling that the Bavarian State Opera, of all institutions in a country which considers itself a ‘Kulturnation’, has put so much efforts into a production which obviously has nothing to do with music and even less with opera, and we could say: which has nothing to do with art at all. And: what could be positive in a production that wants audiences to be reminded of death? In the midst of an epidemic?

I am quite puzzled by the question where the thinking has gone, in this entire story. The pressures of the current epidemic seem to remove layers of disguise from management activity.

I always found the antics of Mrs Abramovic – like walking along the Chinese wall as a work of performance art – entirely nonsensical and deserving to be put in the same category of charlatanerie as the urinal of Marcel Duchamp, who had a good laugh about the naivety and inability of the modern art establishments to make meaningful assessments in their field. The ‘work’ of this lady - which can only consist of videos of her exercises - therefore belongs in the museums which waste both their (tax) money and spaces on cultivating the nonsense that appears to meet a great demand in the modern world.

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