Past Events

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
6:30-8:30pm

The Banquet of the Beheaded

SculptureCenter

Photo for Nicola L.'s The Banquet of the Beheaded, 1999 at La MaMa, New York. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Emanuela Gardener

On the occasion of Nicola L.: Works, 1968 to the Present, SculptureCenter is pleased to announce a staged reading of The Banquet of the Beheaded, a performance work by Nicola L. originally mounted at La MaMa E.T.C. in New York in January 1999.

The work will be read by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, Kyle Dancewicz, Brian Droitcour, Moriah Evans, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Ruba Katrib, Baseera Khan, Kayode Ojo, Jessi Reaves, Silas Riener, Aki Sasamoto, Jamie Stevens, and C. Spencer Yeh.

The Banquet of the Beheaded is a collection of monologues delivered at a dinner party for decapitated historical figures. At this meeting, twelve characters (originally staged with actors' heads poking through the surface of a long table) assemble to describe the circumstances of their iconic deaths, aiming to correct the historical record and reassess the relevance of their fates.

Nicola L. brings twelve real and fictional characters of varying fame to her banquet table: Marie Antoinette; Anne Boleyn; Maximilien de Robespierre; Princess Misha'al bint Fahd, killed as punishment for adultery in Saudi Arabia in 1977; Holofernes; Goliath; Medusa; John the Baptist; Eugen Weidmann, victim of France's last public execution by guillotine in 1939; Henri Désiré Landru, a French serial killer; Charlotte Corday, assassin of Jean-Paul Marat; and Jayne Mansfield, an American actress of the 1950s and 60s. Transitions are directed by a narrator named Theodora, described in critic Robert Knafo's playbill text as "an artist, and a modern day disciple of Gericault, who has been obsessed with decapitated heads."

The work is a synthesis of two strains in Nicola L.'s work from the mid-1980s on: a sustained interest in the form and philosophy of the head, which appears across her sculpture and painting through the late 1990s; and the mobilization of figures in art, history, and culture to overcome sensational and reductive popular characterizations. In an artist's text written for Night Magazine, Nicola L. describes her performance research as a transcultural and transhistorical exploration of the violent nuances of execution by decapitation: as symbolic retribution, as punishment for crimes against nature or religion, as political strategy, as populist revolt, as public judgment, as tragic accident. Working across ethically complex injustices, The Banquet of the Beheaded voices alternate narratives that undercut contextual and historical perceptions of celebrity, infamy, and subversion.

The Banquet of the Beheaded was originally directed by Michael Warren Powell, an actor, director, and filmmaker with whom Nicola L. had collaborated on performances in Ibiza, where they both lived for most of the 1970s. The performance was Nicola L.'s third presentation with La MaMa, following The Cylinder (1969) and Nine Femmes Fatales in their Own Words (1996).

This program is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.