Three exhibitions to see in London this weekend

From Doron Langberg's intimate queer paintings to Marina Abramovic's cinematic opera

Still from Marina Abramovic's Seven Deaths (2021) Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

Still from Marina Abramovic's Seven Deaths (2021) Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

Marina Abramovic: Seven Deaths

Until 30 October, Lisson Gallery, 22 Cork St, W1S 3NA

Marina Abramovic has spent the past 30 years realising 7 Deaths of Maria Callas—part opera, part performance in which Abramovic invokes her heroine and lifelong obsession, the Greek-American soprano Maria Callas. The cinematic version, titled Seven Deaths is now on show at Lisson, and sees Abramovic recast operas for a younger generation, making arias cool again. In the film, Abramovic enacts the deaths of seven protagonists in famous operas—usually at the hands of a man, played in Abramovic’s work by the Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe. Each vignette is performed to an aria sung by Callas. In one scene, meant to evoke the ritual suicide of Madame Butterfly, Abramovic rips off her hazmat suit and exposes herself to radiation poisoning. In another, instead of being strangled by the hands of Othello, Dafoe throttles the artist with two snakes. Abramovic’s Tosca, meanwhile, leaps from the roof of a skyscraper instead of from a the parapets of a castle—a scene she took more than 70 takes to perfect. “You really have to hit the ground to get that impact,” Abramovic says. Seven alabaster self-portrait sculptures are shown alongside, with each relating to a death scene. They are a way, Abramovic says, of combining the material with the immaterial, of life with death.

Installation view of Ibrahim Mahama's Lazarus at White Cube Bermondsey Courtesy of White Cube

Ibrahim Mahama: Lazarus

Until 7 November, White Cube Bermondsey, SE1 3TQ

Last year the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahima acquired Nkrumah Voli-ni, a huge disused building in northern Ghana originally intended for food storage and distribution but later abandoned. Its fate was typical of many 1960s buildings in Africa that fell into disuse following the Independence era. In this ruined, flooded, derelict silo building Mahama has found the promise of economic freedom and the freedom of generations that were yet to come, and transmits that into large-scale installations, sculpture, collage and film that probe the passage of time and the troubled aspects of Ghana’s multi-layered past.

In typical fashion, Mahama uses culturally and historically freighted materials and objects. 100 colonial-era school desks populate the South Gallery, each of which now contains an old sewing machine that every so often is made to clatter into life. A further room takes on the pandemic's most loathed creature, the bat. 15 abstract sculptural suggestions of the wings of bats made from steel and canvas tarpaulins hang from the ceiling, a reference to a colony of bats that Mahama found in Nkrumah Voli-ni and allowed to remain there. As well as focusing on obsolescence and decay, Mahama equally taps into the idea that these vast, disused spaces are prime opportunities for regeneration and the exhibition's title references to the biblical resurrection of Lazarus. As Mahama explains in an interview with The Art Newspaper: "'Volini' can mean an act of exhuming, an act of resurrection. I'm interested in this idea that within the image of the apocalypse there is the possibility to see a way of transforming."

Doron Langberg Brothers 2021 Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro

Doron Langberg: Give Me Love

The first UK solo show of the Brooklyn-based figurative painter Doron Langberg features much of what the artist is best known for: large-scale, close-up, explicit portrayals of queer love. But alongside these are also intimate images of the Langberg and his husband, as well as a group of landscapes Langberg made as he grieved his sister, who died recently, which feature his siblings in the Menashe mountains in Israel where they grew up. References to art history abound in the works, from a depiction of his husband in the bath which is a clear nod to Bonnard's series of bathing nudes, to landscapes that evoke both Munch and Van Gogh. Throughout, Langberg's touch is evident, telling The Art Newspaper in a podcast interview: "I think that having the imprint of my body so evident on the surface, having a variety of marks and gestures, some that are really fast, really broad, marks that are kind of smaller, or lightly touched in the work brings the viewer so much closer to the process."

• Listen to the full interview here.


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