NEW YORK – Celebrated Greek artist Kostis Velonis’ large-scale sculptural work Life Without Tragedy has now been installed on Governors Island, where it will remain on view, free of charge, through October 31, Onassis USA announced on May 3.
Life Without Tragedy, developed with architect Christian Kotzamanis and initially created for the acclaimed Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming (during which it could be seen in Astor Place, April 10-30, free of charge), explores the intersection of democracy and theater – perhaps Greece’s two greatest contributions. The work consists of three wood sculptures that mimic an ancient Greek amphitheater, a place that was a social institution and a site for political discourse as well as a venue for art.
The Greek amphitheater is a phenomenon and physical space rich with political and democratic import. Theatrical performances were, in Athenian democracy, deeply rooted in the polity and its institutions. The actors and members of the chorus were citizens, and a gathering in the theater functioned as an ecclesia (an assembly of the citizens). The theater, although it was established during the period of the tyrants, became a site of democracy, as it flourished in parallel with the democratic system of government. Democracy liberated ancient Greek tragedy from its religious nature, giving it a more anthropocentric and political character. And within the theater, Athenians participated in dialogue and debate about ideas.
Life Without Tragedy exemplifies Onassis USA’s evolution into a formidable contemporary producer and presenter of arts-and-ideas programs that substantially contribute to timely national and international conversations. The organization has explored democracy in recent programming including Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming, presented with The Public Theater; Onassis Festival 2018: The Birds, A Festival Inspired by Aristophanes; the Speaking Truth to Power series in collaboration with the Brooklyn Academy of Music; and the 2018 revival of The Gospel at Colonus, the Lee Breuer / Bob Telson landmark, at the Delacorte Theater, in collaboration with The Public Theater.
Vallejo Gantner, the recently announced Artistic and Executive Director of Onassis USA, said, “Kostis did us proud, and we are so happy that this bold piece has found its place. Created for an urgent festival of arts and democracy this work evokes so many values we hold dear- dialogue, debate, participation, and the arts. We’re immensely grateful that Life Without Tragedy has found a home on Governors Island, and proud to be partnering with this vital new piece of New York City’s cultural ecosystem.”
Karen Brooks Hopkins, Onassis USA Senior Advisor, said, “As a board member of both Onassis USA and Governors Island, I’m thrilled that these two great organizations are partnering to give hundreds of thousands of visitors an additional opportunity to view this work.”
Governors Island plays a unique role in New York City’s cultural landscape, providing a one-of-a-kind platform for artists, cultural organizations and educators to create groundbreaking and experiential programming. Public art commissioned by both outside organizations and the Trust for Governors Island has connected hundreds of thousands of visitors with groundbreaking contemporary artworks in an accessible, natural environment. Looking forward, Governors Island is envisioned as an unparalleled venue for free public art in New York City that allows diverse audiences to deeply engage with immersive, thoughtful, challenging, whimsical and experimental works in open green areas and historic architecture, all against the backdrop of the Harbor and skyline.
“We are thrilled to host Kostis Velonis’ work on the Island at Picnic Point, a site deeply connected to New York Harbor’s iconic symbols of democracy and political discourse,” said Meredith Johnson, VP of Arts and Culture at the Trust for Governors Island. “Through Onassis USA’s generosity, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Island will have the opportunity to engage with this work and the important conversations ignited by the Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming.”
Life Without Tragedy will be on view every day during the 2019 season at Picnic Point, located on the Island’s southern tip. Governors Island is open every day from May 1-October 31. On weekdays, the Island is open from 10 AM to 6 PM. On weekends and holidays, the Island is open from 10 AM to 7 PM. On Friday and Saturday evenings between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, the Island will be open until 10 PM. For ferry schedules and more information, visit www.govisland.org.