Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Saint François d’Assise

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Saint François d’Assise
Dates 21 September — 23 October 2005
Address Stella Art Foundation
Skaryatinsky pereulok, 7

Stella Art Foundation represents the documental project on creation of scenography to the Olivier Messiaen’s Opera by outstanding Moscow conceptualists. The latest total Kabakovs installation was exhibited in 2003 on Ruhr-Triennale in Bochum. Stella Art Foundation demonstrates the installation model created by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. The opening night video of the Opera and photographic documentation of the artists’ work on the costumes and decoration are included in the exposition as well.

Olivier Messiaen one of the most innovative major 20th century composers was born in 1908 in Avington, France. Coming not from any particular “school’ or style but forming and creating his own totally individual musical voice. The single most important driving force in his musical creations was his devout Catholic faith.

In 1975 Messiaen embarked on his most ambitious project of his life — the opera Saint Francois d’Assise, a work that would occupy him for the following eight years. Saint Francois represents his life work combining all his compositional techniques gathered over fifty or so years. The opera is massive, complex and uncompromising, and its fundamental premises — both artistic and theological clothed in the resplendent glory of Olivier Messiaen music and preaching his message of sanctified humility as forcefully as he must have done in 13th century Italy. At five hours stretched over three slow-moving acts, its dimensions are a little daunting; the musical language is often abstruse; and much of what Messiaen expects from his listeners, particularly in the way of Catholic dogma, is simply taken for granted. Dramatically, Saint Francois is structured like a medieval fresco, in eight self-contained scenes that each focus on a single episode of the Saint’s life.

Ilya Kabakov about his work on the Saint François d’Assise Opera: “The Hall of Century brands a viewer with its massive and majestic building. Height, breadth and length are so fundamental that a person feels like a midget here but nevertheless there is no feeling of emptiness and openness of a stadium. The viewer’s attention focuses on inner space which is fulfilled with inner strain and it seems that something is happening permanently and you are also a part of this action for one reason or another. This feeling could be frivolously compared with cathedral atmosphere when we mean industrial ruin lost its foretime purpose but kept its distinctive energetic and reminding of creative past. Oliver Messiaen’s music definitely catches the spirit of the Hall atmosphere.

Visual effect of the installation creates the accord where opera’s music and splendor of the Hall join together. But above all the installation must accord with building size, being simple and fundamental. It consists of diverse covered binders girding the Hall and serving as ceiling supports. The cathedral dome sloping at an angle of 60 degrees towards the floor and facing the viewers with its internal side meets this challenge. The main visual effect consists in the play of light and color inside the dome and the viewer perceives it like a dome “rosace”. Change of colors and its light deepness are attuning to the musical-theater action of the performance. This play of color and light visualizes musical metaphors — procession towards sparkling light through the darkness of the world”.