Critics’ Picks

View of Jacqueline Fraser: “The Making of Maria by Callas,” 2020.

View of Jacqueline Fraser: “The Making of Maria by Callas,” 2020.


Jacqueline Fraser

Kunsthalle Zurich
Limmatstrasse 270
December 12, 2020–February 21, 2021

A mock chandelier made from thick gold tinsel piping dangles amid the sheen of black walls clad in strands of the same material in Jacqueline Fraser’s The Making of Maria by Callas 2020, 2020, lending the site-specific installation an air of cheap yet elevated camp. The metallic cluster casts a shadow onto a projection of Tom Volf’s biopic Maria by Callas (2017), about the renowned opera singer, who at the height of her fame was hailed as “La Divina”: the Divine one. Fraser’s previous “the Making of” installations—among them The Making of 8 Mile, 2012, The Making of La Dolce Vita, 2011, and The Making of the Ciao Manhattan Tapes, 2013—draw on feature length productions that focus on themes of self-mythification and reinvention. Fraser treats the original films as background fodder, ignoring their narratives in lieu of honing in on the embodiment and performative gestures of their protagonists. At Kunsthalle Zurich, Maria Callas, often eclipsed by the fixture hung from the ceiling, becomes a cipher onto which we can either project our desires or break away from the cinematic trick of immersion.

Behind the screen, figurative sculptures made from assemblages of costume elements and magazine clippings are lined up either side of a large room with the layout of an empty dancefloor and bar. Suspended from black ribbons, these feminine effigies hang in a state of latency, as if waiting to be worn. The collaged images strewn upon the fashioned bodies depict both high and low-end editorial spreads. Her choice of images suggests an iconoclastic defiance: for example, a torn advert from Louis Vuitton’s 2017 collaboration with Jeff Koons on the label’s classic Neverfull bag, emblazoned with Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; and an install shot of Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Amber Bed), 1991— a rubber cast mattress resting in a post-coital slump. Fuchsia tinsel completes the scenography, sealing the space from daylight and streaming down from the ceiling to form three large open cube structures posturing as grand lightshades. As Fraser addresses hierarchies and mythopoeias with techniques of restaging and montage, the figures face the empty floor, each one a ghost from the past, waiting for the spotlight.