Onassis Foundation Announces ‘Archive of Desire’ Festival Inspired by C.P. Cavafy

NEW YORK – The Onassis Foundation on March 9 announced the full schedule of events comprising the multi-disciplinary, multi-venue ‘Archive of Desire’: A Festival Inspired by the Poet C.P. Cavafy, which is presented in collaboration with National Sawdust and takes place April 28-May 6, with special offerings throughout April.

Conceived by Onassis Culture Director Afroditi Panagiotakou and the curatorial team at the foundation’s headquarters in Athens, and curated by celebrated composer and National Sawdust co-founder and artistic director Paola Prestini, the festival honors Cavafy’s far-reaching legacy and ongoing relevance by illustrating his work’s ability to spark creativity and imagination across a wide range of art forms. Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita of Brooklyn Academy of Music, now Senior Advisor and Board member of the Onassis Foundation, serves as the festival’s Executive Producer. Pomegranate Arts is the festival’s producing partner, and ALL ARTS is the media sponsor.

Tickets and full details are available at the festival’s website: https://www.onassis.org/whats-on/cavafy-festival.

‘Archive of Desire’ – which takes its name from a new work by acclaimed poet Robin Coste Lewis, written for this occasion and inspired by her experience viewing the Cavafy archive in Athens – convenes some of today’s most category-defying artists to further interpret Cavafy’s prismatic legacy, propelling it even further into the future, and revisiting it as a fertile source for inspiration. ‘Archive of Desire’ is both an homage to Cavafy and a radical approach to animating and expanding the legacy and impact of a deceased artist. The Onassis Foundation has taken great care and effort to maintain, digitize, and share his work and ephemera, ensuring they are freely accessible for engagement with academic study and creative innovation.

Events and activations will take place at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, McNally Jackson Bookstores, the Onassis Foundation’s ONX Studio in the Olympic Tower, the New Museum, St. Thomas Church with Death of Classical, The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Rockefeller Center, Columbia University, and elsewhere throughout the city.

Highlights include a new installation on the exterior wall of National Sawdust by Nick Cave and Bob Faust (on view from April 29); an evening of creative synergy across multiple artistic genres with poet Robin Coste Lewis, visual artist Julie Mehretu, composer Vijay Iyer, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, and director Charlotte Brathwaite (May 3 and 4); and a ‘visual rave’ from Juliana Huxtable (May 6).

Death of Classical will produce a concert of new music commissions and newly arranged works by Laurie Anderson, Helga Davis and Petros Klampanis, Nico Muhly (arranged by Nathan Thatcher), Dimitris Papadimitriou, Paola Prestini, and Rufus Wainwright (arranged by Missy Mazzoli), with performances by Anderson, Davis, Klampanis, Wainwright, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus led by Dianne Berkun Menaker, The Knights, and soprano Eleni Calenos (May 2).

Other programs include a performance wherein Sister Sylvester’s handmade art-books will be read communally by the audience, with a live-score by Nadah El Shazly (April 28); visual art offerings ranging from Ali Santana’s reimagining of a Cavafy poem as immersive, experimental Hip Hop experience (opening April 28), to a video work and artistic research project from Matthew Niederhauser and Marc Da Costa (opening April 28); a five-hour marathon reading of Cavafy’s oeuvre (April 30); and an international academic symposium paired with musical exploration and poetic expression featuring leading Cavafy scholars Stathis Gourgouris and Karen Emmerich alongside Orfeas Apergis, Yiannis Doukas, Phoebe Giannisi, Katerina Iliopoulou, Haytham al-Wardani, Iman Mersal, Janlori Goldman, Robin Coste Lewis, Brenda Shaughnessy, Susan Bernofsky, Brent Edwards, Sofía Avramidou, Marcos Balter, Zosha di Castri, Stylianos Dimou, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Lena Platonos, and Georgios Poniridis, featuring the National Sawdust Ensemble under the music direction of Jeffrey Zeigler, with Greek guest musicians Yiannis Palamidas (voice) and Stergios Tsirliagos (synths) (May 1).

A series of visual poems will be presented throughout the festival, and at a public screening on May 4. These films– which include works created both in New York, conceived and produced by Elena Park/Lumahai Productions, and in Greece by Onassis Stegi – feature contributions from Jad Abumrad, Justin Ervin, Evi Kalogeropoulou, Taylor Mac, Steven E. Mallorca, Julianne Moore, Elena Park, Mac Premo, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Carl Hancock Rux, Christos Sarris in collaboration with incarcerated individuals in Greece, Pete Scalzitti, Bora Yoon, and Jeffrey Ziegler.

To celebrate Cavafy’s impact on modern poetry, his intellectual legacy, and his queer and diasporic identity as a man who deftly danced between the ancient world and the modern metropolis, McNally Jackson book stores will be transformed into living invitations for passersby to discover or reconsider Cavafy and his canon. Each of McNally Jackson’s seven city-wide locations from Nolita to Laguardia Airport will house artfully made tiny poetry libraries dedicated to the poet and his work. A limited number of complimentary totes and commemorative bookmarks will be available. Additionally, McNally Jackson has curated a series of three literary talks for the Festival with writers and intellectuals who will deeply consider Cavafy’s work, identity, and artistic footprint: Cavafy as Queer Poet with Stamatina Gregory and Richie Hofmann (April 19), Cavafy as World Poet with Daniel Mendelsohn and Jana Prikryl (April 27), and Why Read Cavafy? with André Aciman and Paul Holdengräber. In honor of the Festival, and aligned with National Poetry Month, McNally Jackson will be highlighting C.P. Cavafy The Collected Poems translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou as its April 2023 book-of-the-month selection.

Music inspired by Cavafy will also fill the air in a free installation at the rink-level public space of Rockefeller Center. National Sawdust’s latest cohort of Hildegard Commission composers, emerging artists who are women or of other traditionally marginalized genders, were given the works of Cavafy to use as a source of inspiration for their commissions. The resulting works, recorded by the National Sawdust Ensemble, will be available as a sonic installation from April 3-May 6.


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