NEW YORK – The Onassis Festival opened on October 13 at the Onassis Cultural Center in Midtown Manhattan.
Guests included His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Consul Generals of Greece in New York Kostas Koutras, of Cyprus Vasilios Philippou, Consul of Greece Manos Koubarakis, their wives, Onassis Foundation Executive Director and Cultural Director Amalia Cosmetatou, and Irish actress and director Fiona Shaw.
Among the artists showing their work in the festival, Maria Papadimitriou, curator Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, and Alexandra Kehayoglu also attended.
Opening night featured Past Tense, the performance-based work of acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems. Highlighted by song, text, projection, and video, the performance lecture included the talented singers Alicia Hall Moran, Imani Uzuri and Eisa Davis.
It dramatically illustrated the enduring significance of the iconic Antigone, and its profound relevance to our contemporary moment.
As noted on the festival website, it marks the confluence of history. Weems said, “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 powerful performance called on the audience to “stand for something before you fall for anything.”
Greek artist and filmmaker Tsivopoulos told The National Herald, “I hadn’t read the play by Sophocles in a long time so I knew vaguely the play and the story, but not really as I should.”
He noted that he had never done work inspired by antiquity. “What’s important with this big concept, these classical works is to understand what’s their relation to the now, why they matter, and how we can energize them, reenergize them, and look at them in an exciting way.”
“The more I looked into the play, the more I realized how incredibly relevant it is to our times in so many different ways,” Tsivopoulos observed.
The act of defiance against Creon and also how you honor your own, themes of loss and love, “right there you have such huge concepts to work with. I felt a little intimidated to be honest, but then something happened. I started seeing Antigone around me.” The idea of Antigone became central to Tsivopoulos’ work, doing what’s right even if it goes against the establishment.
Did he always want to be an artist? “Actually, I never wanted to,” he described to TNH. “It just happened like a lot of things. I had a natural talent for drawing and painting but then of course, being an artist is much more than that. It takes a whole lifetime to experience what exactly it is to be an artist, to define yourself within society the more you realize you are an artist, the true artist is someone who doubts. The first thing you doubt is yourself, but also you believe in things, doubt and belief, it’s this double-sided coin. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but I love it and can’t live without it.”
We, Antigone, his short film follows the life of Rakeem Edwards, a homeless 25-year-old gay, black man, born in Georgia and raised in Alaska.
Presenting the unvarnished, at times brutal, truth of the challenges Rakeem faces as he struggles to live his life and be who he is, the film will be on display in the gallery of the Onassis Cultural Center in New York through December.
Tsivopoulos lives and works in Athens, Amsterdam, and New York. His films use a distinct cinematic visual language that merge poetic and allegoric narratives with social, political, and economic issues affecting our world today. Tsivopoulos has produced films and projects in many different countries and exhibited extensively in both art museums and film festivals around the world.
In 2013, he represented Greece in the 55th Venice Biennale with History Zero, a film in three episodes. Recent solo shows and venues include the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (2015); MuCEM, Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Marseille; (2014), Cycladic Art Museum, Athens (2014); and the Greek Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale (2013). Recent group exhibitions include Kunsthaus Zurich (2016); MACBA, Barcelona (2015); and the Tate Modern, London (2014).
As noted on the Onassis Festival website, “Alexandra Kehayoglou crafts wool rugs as unique works of art with a hand-tufting process that takes several months to complete. Using discarded thread from her family’s carpet factory in Buenos Aires, she describes her rugs as portals to memories, with a direct connection to her Greek grandparents’ past weaving of Ottoman-style carpets in Turkey.”
Kehayoglu is internationally renowned and as she told TNH, working in this medium is in her genes. She said that the piece on display in the Onassis Festival is the first she has made working with the mineral world. Most of her works are inspired by the landscapes of her native Argentina— forests, desert islands, Patagonian glaciers, and the pastizales (grasslands) where the sheep from which the wool is sheared graze. An advocate for the environment, Kehayoglou creates impressive works inspired by nature. Her artwork will be on display in the Atrium at the Onassis Center through December.