The Onassis Cultural Center New York launches its fall season with Antigone Now, the second annual Onassis Festival of Arts and Ideas, October 13‒16, featuring a new work created by acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems presented one time only on opening night. Weems participates in Past Tense, the performance-based piece to be presented on October 13, at 8 pm, at the cultural center, 645 Fifth Avenue, NY. Site-specific installations by three contemporary artists created for Antigone Now will also debut and remain on view through December 15.
Through song, text, projection, and video, Weems presents a performance-lecture informed by Sophocles’ drama Antigone—about a teenage girl who sets out to do what she believes is morally right. Past Tense’s origins lie in Weems’ Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, a multi-media performance work commissioned by the Spoleto Festival USA, which premiered in June 2016. Weems said of Past Tense, “While working on Grace Notes for months it occurred to me that I was telling the story of Antigone, wherein an innocent man dies by unjustified means and his sister fights for the right to bury him honorably. But the wider community refuses her; her right to justice, and to peace, is denied.”
The artist explores themes of social justice, escalating violence, gender relations, politics, and personal identity within the context of contemporary history—recurrent subjects in Weems’ practice. She will be accompanied by singers Eisa Davis, Alicia Hall Moran, and Imani Uzuri.
Preregistration is required for Past Tense at www.onassisfestivalny.org for limited open seating and standing, and registration (opening September 18) is on a first-come, first-served basis.
The story of Antigone, seen through the eyes of contemporary artists and thinkers, is celebrated in over 30 free events for all ages during Antigone Now.
Expanding the visual arts offerings this year, the Festival is also presenting new work by Alexandra Kehayoglou, Maria Papadimitriou, and Stefanos Tsivopoulos commissioned by the Onassis Festival NY 2016, each examining different aspects of Antigone and Hellenic culture. Papadimitriou and Tsivopoulos have represented Greece at the Venice Biennale and Kehayoglou’s work has been shown at Frieze 15 London and The Armory Show in NYC. The three works will be installed in the Onassis Cultural Center New York during the Festival and through December 15.
Kehayoglou’s installation on the Art Wall commissioned by the Festival, Repoussoir for a new perspective, is a hand-woven tapestry measuring approximately 23 x 8’, displayed in the Olympic Tower Atrium and on view daily from 8 am to 10 pm. Executed in earth tones using tufted wool—discarded thread from her family’s carpet factory in Buenos Aires—the two-piece sculptural form represents the cave formations and volcanic activity that produces intricate outcroppings and patterns in the landscape on the Greek island of Milos. The minerals being extracted from this fragile ecosystem for industrial use are currently in danger of vanishing. The work reveals the ways in which the artist weaves tragedy into her practice as she explores the nexus of natural and civic law through Antigone’s intuitive ethical awareness that fundamentally challenges human-made law so as to invoke natural (moral) or “divine” sources.
Laboratory Antigone by Papadimitriou is an immersive installation. It comprises elements inspired by the artist’s reflections on the history of ancient Thebes, the personae of Antigone and Oedipus, and impressions while traveling between Athens and Volos. She uses an old tannery in the town of Volos as a point of reference. Suspended animal hides reference six pivotal characters in the myth. Large-scale imagery of the tannery and video of spinning tannery barrels provide an architectural environment and, with the hides, evoke themes of mortality. A recorded monologue from Antigone read by Amalia Moutoussi accompanies the installation.
In We, Antigone, Tsivopoulos produces a narrative based on the life of the film’s subject. Rakeem Edwards is a young, gay, black man born in Georgia and raised in Alaska. He lived in group and foster homes before moving to Portland to pursue an acting career. While Rakeem works several part-time jobs to survive, his main creative output is to perform as a drag queen at parties where he is paid to cry. Through Edwards’ experience, the film questions how issues like race, sexual orientation, income inequality, and social mobility play a major role in defining and expressing oneself. The artist reveals that, like Antigone, Edwards feels like a stranger in his own land. Edwards’ performances also reveal the power of vulnerability and the acceptance of sadness and crying as necessary for catharsis. We, Antigone will be screened at various times throughout the Festival in the Gallery and through December.
“The theme of this year’s Festival serves as an emboldening call for freedom of expression, unity, and positive action—a vibrant message that everyone can make a difference. We are thrilled to be opening Antigone Now with a powerful new work by Carrie Mae Weems, one of the most influential artists of our time. Her practice speaks to the critical issues of today and resonates strongly with Antigone’s story—one as relevant in this moment as in Sophocles’ time. We are also delighted to present more visual artists this year including thought-provoking new work by Alexandra Kehayoglou, Maria Papadimitriou, and Stefanos Tsivopoulos. Being able to extend those displays through December allows us to welcome more visitors beyond the Festival. We invite everyone to visit the cultural center and take part in our public programs and exhibitions,” said Amalia Cosmetatou, Executive and Cultural Director of the Onassis Foundation USA.
About the ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER NEW YORK
The Onassis Cultural Center New York explores Greek culture from antiquity to today through a diverse program of exhibitions, events, and online engagement for audiences of all ages and interests. All programs and exhibitions—from scholarly to those designed for families, novices, and experts—are presented free of charge to make the experience accessible to all.
About the ONASSIS FOUNDATION USA
The Onassis Foundation USA, an affiliate to the parent Foundation in Greece, is committed to the promotion of Greek culture. By cooperating with educational and cultural institutions in Greece and throughout the Americas, the Onassis Foundation USA promotes cultural relations. The mission of the Onassis Foundation USA is realized through two major initiatives, one cultural and educational for the general public through its Onassis Cultural Center New York, and one academic, the University Seminar Program, that places eminent scholars from all over the world in universities in North and Latin America for seminars and courses on topics related to Hellenic civilization. To learn more about the Foundation and the Onassis Cultural Center New York, please visit: www.onassisusa.org.