OPERA (QM.15), 2016, an artwork by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, took up residence in Gallery 3 of the Bourse de Commerce, infusing it the presence of Maria Callas.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s oeuvre is inspired by the living me-ory of cinema, literature, and the open structures of architecture and music. In 2012, she began a series of performance works, or apparitions as she calls them, in which she embodies figures such as Bob Dylan, Emily Brontë, and Ludwig II of Bavaria, who together create M.2062, a fragmented opera with no beginning and no end, thus effacing any idea of a constant unit of time and action. These performances, in which the artist lets herself be inhabited by other characters, are sometimes in the form of holographic projections that bring iconic performances to life once again: Sarah Bernhardt in the role of L’Aiglon or Klaus Kinski playing the possessed Fitzcarraldo. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster leaves the work open, giving it a sense of unfamiliarity that brings out the “here and now” and places the visitor at the heart of the work. In January 2016, she turned to opera, transforming herself into Maria Callas. This apparition became its own work, OPERA (QM.15).
Gonzalez-Foerster reiterates that these apparitions “have more in common with a spiritual session – an attempt to communicate with certain spirits – than with theatre or cinema, a sort of prepared trance, allowing the apparition or reapparition of intense artistic moments.”
Callas appeared as an archetypal and primordial figure, looming out of the darkness before once against disappearing into it. Appearing in a ghostlike shroud, the artist haunted the museum. She was so infused with the spirit of the great diva, their voices becoming one, that she brought a new intensity to it. Recordings of arias from Medea by Luigi Cherubini, La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, and La Gioconda by Amilcare Ponchielli are those of a young Maria Callas at the peak of her art, but her iconic red dress indicated the singer’s final performances, ten years before her death.
The disjunction in a single image between these two irreconcilable temporalities accentuatesd the emotion generated by the remanence of this ghostly image, even once that the artifice behind the illusion had been revealed. Out of this floating body, with its ghostlike allure, a form of irrationality emerged, a sort of fascination combined with stupefaction.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s apparitions give substance to a “between-two-worlds”, where even at a distance, in parallel worlds and temporalities, art and life, the real and the imaginary can coexist for a time.