16.05, 17.05

Maria Hassabi Athens

On Stage


Théâtre des Martyrs

Please confirm your attendance with a wheelchair during online reservation or through box officeAccessible for wheelchair users with assistance | ⧖ 1h | €18 / €15

A solo figure stands at the edge of the proscenium stage – the place often used for speeches and stand-up comedy – and silently morphs from one pose to the next, like a body shaped by time. Iconic and mundane images emerge in a dramaturgy that exposes a nuanced embodiment of what it means to sustain a place, a pose, a representation. Maria Hassabi merges the strength and vulnerability one experiences on stage – to be uncovered. She frames her signature style of stillness, slowness and aesthetic precision, and invites her audience to awaken their own references to a parade of images as they unfold. What happens when the process of an image is revealed? In a contemporary culture fiercely flooded by images, does it lose its appeal when compared to our expectations? Hassabi has presented her work in the world’s leading museums and exhibition contexts, and at the festival in 2014 and 2017. On Stage is undoubtedly one of her most radical and personal works, offering a feminist reflection and a piercing insight into her artistic trajectory. Before an audience, Maria Hassabi’s intensity is visible, almost tangible, in a work of rare power that leaves no one indifferent.

“When Hassabi holds her hands before her body, time appears to flow through her hands. (...) Always on the edge, right before eruption. She proves that even in a time where innovative ideas are scarce, it's possible to pioneer new horizons in the field of dance.”
Der Standard

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Daniel Blanga Gubbay – I’d like to start with the space of the theatre. On Stage is one of your works that is the most related to its architecture.

Maria Hassabi On Stage is related to ideas of presentation within the theatre space. My works usually have a strong installation aspect within them. Here, the installation is the actual space of the theatre, the stage, empty as it is.

DBG – To be specific, you investigate the architectural element of the proscenium, the part of the stage that is closest to the audience. I remember that it was very clear to you from the outset that this element would be at the core of the performance. Why did you have this image in mind?

MH – One of my initial inspirations was the opening scene of Opening Night, the 1977 film by John Cassavetes. We see Gena Rowlands’ character on a proscenium stage, holding her arms out, in front of a large audience. And her beautiful and quite sentimental monologue unfolds. The actual film has nothing to do with On Stage apart from this opening scene. Usually, a proscenium stage is attached to a grandiose gesture. Expectations of a spectacle, of a “real show”, are somehow on demand from the audience.

DBG – There is indeed a powerful contrast between what’s expected to happen on the proscenium – which is the area of big announcements or stand-up comedy – and the minimal movements of your body.

MH – From the start, I wanted to produce a minimalist work for a proscenium stage that would neglect the vastness of its space. Proscenium stages promote the “fourth wall”, the imaginary wall which divides the audience from the performer. With this solo I wanted to sidestep this expectation of a division and instead generate a possibility of an intimate exchange with the audience. A bet on intimacy, while flirting with ideas of expectations.

DBG – You’re standing on the edge of the stage, very exposed, and the slow movements of the body give us, as an audience, the possibility to project poses we might have seen in the past.

MH – This work is composed of plural images that are related one way or another to ideas of presentation, and they require my full commitment to the present moment. Images have the ability to host projections. For over a decade I have explored how to convey images in live performance, using deceleration and precision as I move from one place of pause to the next. Without succumbing to theatrical tricks of changing lights, costumes or music, I have relied on physicality to keep these images alive for both the viewer and the performer. The human form is not an abstract form in any sense. Yet holding a pose for a duration, ends up abstracting meaning, and then representations begin to shift. Stillness takes the role of repetition, a device used widely in both dance and other art mediums. The dramaturgy of images in On Stage does not ask the viewer to recognise them, and instead functions as an invitation to each individual spectator to project their own references upon these images. Back in 2009, when I began to develop this practice, I copied more than 300 iconic images and sculptures drawn from art history, pop culture and everyday life. Having gone through this research, I don’t rely on books any longer for drawing my references, because one of the facts that I realized is that the body is the host of representations. And they become accessible through the use of pause, stillness.

DBG – Music has always been a very important element in your projects. Here we have the impression of something coming from elsewhere, sometimes travelling in time, in an undefined way, and almost landing on stage. How did you work specifically on this soundtrack?

MH – I wanted a soundtrack that could offer the audience a sense of comfort, an acoustic pillow. Using both a familiar and an unrecognizable ambient mood including snippets that could reference conditions of theater, such as bits of sentimentality or grandiose gestures...

DBG – In this sense, it’s very generous. On Stage is incredibly delicate in the way in which it develops itself, and at the same time it’s a very affirmative piece. Going back to the space of the proscenium and to the act of standing there affirming something, I could see in it a kind of manifesto, without words, just with your own presence, affirming something about your own practice, about many years of artistic practice.

MH – In a way this work is a manifestation of my practice, while also questioning the power of images in our society. I feel that I have become desensitized to information being manipulated by the barrage of images in our daily life. The mechanism of projection, along with the freedom of interpretation and time spent looking, is what I love about images. Yet they can also be sneaky by devouring the power of actuality and being in the present moment.


  • 20:15


  • 18:00
  • 21:00

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre des Martyrs
Performance: Maria Hassabi | Sound design: Stavros Gasparatos, Maria Hassabi | Light design: Aliki Danezi Knutsen | Costume: Victoria Bartlett, Maria Hassabi | Assistance: Elena Antoniou, Maribeth Nartatez | Dramaturgy and production: Ash Bulayev | Management and distribution: Rui Silveira – Something Great 
Production: Maria Hassabi in collaboration with Something Great | Coproduction: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Tanzquartier Wien, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Julidans, Taipei Arts Festival/TPAC – Taipei Performing Arts Centre

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