published 8.26.2015

Narcissus Now: The Myth Reimagined, October 8-11

by Onassis Foundation USA

The Onassis Foundation (USA) Announces the Inaugural Onassis Cultural Center NY Season

Narcissus Now: The Myth Reimagined, October 8-11
World Citizens, October 23
Commission by Angelo Plessas for The Art Wall, October-December 2015

Heléne Alexopoulos, Andreas Angelidakis, Jonah Bokaer, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Vanessa Grigoriadis, Jenny Holzer, Jennifer Homans, Stavros Gasparatos, Paul Giamatti, Angelo Plessas, Narciso Rodriguez, Lorin Stein and Judith Thurman to be featured in an inaugural Arts and Ideas Festival Exploring Contemporary Interpretations of
the Myth of Narcissus

New York, NY – (August 26, 2015) – The Onassis Cultural Center NY launches its inaugural fall season with the Onassis Festival NY 2015.  Narcissus Now: The Myth Reimagined is the first annual festival of arts and ideas, taking place in the newly renovated space in the Olympic Tower in New York City.  The Festival features a kaleidoscopic view of the myth of Narcissus through music, visual art, film, science, literature, choreography, culinary arts, fashion and digital media for curious minds. Free and open to the public, Narcissus Now at the Onassis Cultural Center NY (645 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10022), October 8-11, will include over 40 events for audiences of all ages—novices and scholars alike.  The Inaugural Season continues with the World Citizens symposium on October 23 and music programs in November and December.

Narcissus Now: The Myth Reimagined is the central theme for the first Festival. The myth of Narcissus has fascinated human imagination through time and cultures. With roots lost in antiquity, it first appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, where narcissus is the flower that virginal Persephone plucks when abducted by Hades, the God of the Underworld.   The better known telling of the myth comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: a beautiful Greek youth falls in love with his own reflection and wastes away pining for himself; in his place a flower grows, a narcissus, or daffodil which is our signal for spring.  This version of the myth is the defining allegory of the post-modern age.  From psychoanalysis to selfies, the Narcissus myth serves as an emblematic example of the unparalleled influence of Classical antiquity on our culture.

“Through this new initiative, an annual festival of arts and ideas, we take a fresh look into the classical tradition and the complex ways it forms part of our own vocabulary. We invite the community to join us as we explore how ideas and ancient models, such as Narcissus, are interpreted today and what we can learn from them,” says Amalia Cosmetatou, executive and cultural director of the Onassis Foundation (USA).  “We will offer opportunities for Greek and American artists to work side by side on specially commissioned works and to explore how Hellenic culture inspires the creative arts and informs our lives.”

Through exclusive commissions and by drawing unexpected connections, the Narcissus Now program showcases the impact of the Narcissus myth across a broad and diverse spectrum of artistic disciplines, including new collaborations between Greek and American artists.  The Festival’s online presence will make the program available globally.  Violaine Huisman is guest curator for the first festival and Ellen Dennis its producer.  Narcissus Now is funded exclusively by the Onassis Foundation (USA).

“The story of Narcissus is everywhere, from selfies to the excesses of social media. It’s so timely that it feels prescient. Yet the myth has an enigmatic quality, too, exposing the perils of self-regard, of solitude, of beauty.  The Festival presents all these aspects of Narcissus, reimagined across the arts. Our intention is to explore the intellectual depth of the myth with rigor and whimsy and a sense of fun.” says Violaine Huisman, curator of Narcissus Now.


Triple Echo (October 8): In an original dance and music creation, Jonah Bokaer, “contemporary dance’s renaissance man” (The New York Times) and Stavros Gasparatos, preeminent composer of the new Greek generation, team up with extraordinary collaborators to launch the Festival with a performance which will lead the audience across the expanse of the newly renovated venue. Set to live music, Triple Echo will feature three solo dance performances, lighting design by Aaron Copp and costumes by “master of minimalism” (T Magazine) fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez.

Narcissus & Art: In the Woods (October 9): Narcissus Now will feature this highly original lecture on the myth of Narcissus in the art world today by The Bruce High Quality Foundation.  Created in 2004, The Bruce High Quality Foundation is an arts collective based in Brooklyn, which – in its own words – is “… an experiment in the sense that we are trying out ways to learn from each other, we’re evaluating the results as we go, and we’re refining our approach. We don’t expect to develop the perfect method. But we do intend to continually perfect our method.”  The collective includes five to eight rotating and anonymous members. The New York Times’ T Magazinecalled their work a “curious mash-up of sober scholarship and juvenile pranksterism that is not only novel, it’s also intriguingly hard to nail down.” Humorous and erudite, their work has been presented at the Whitney Biennale, MoMA, PS1, the New Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, as well as in Europe.

I AMness: This site-specific installation by Angelo Plessas was inspired by a book of the same title, which speaks about existential psychology, narcissism, and addiction. I AMness is comprised of two components: the art website “” and a wall painting for The Art Wall, which will create the illusion of animation.  Angelo Plessas’s work revolves around the issues of internet freedom and online personality and has been exhibited at Cooper Union, Volta art fair, Deitch Projects and White Columns. I AMness is the premiere installation of a new initiative, The Art Wall, which will host specially commissioned works by contemporary artists who have been invited to make their creative process visible to the public. It will be on view until December.

Narcissus & Ballet (October 10): Every dancer develops an intimate and complex relationship with the mirror and self-image. Jennifer Homans, author of national bestseller Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, will talk with internationally renowned ballerina emeritus Heléne Alexopoulos about her understanding of the Narcissus myth as it relates to her experience and her profession at large.  Ms. Alexopoulos, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet for 24 years, has been hailed by the New York Times as “blessed with a natural glamour that fills the stage…at her most subdued, she radiates a compelling sense of mystery. At her most dramatic, she moves boldly, even brazenly, exuding passion with either humor or sensuality.”


The Festival will also feature off-site events. “We want to engage audiences with the story of Narcissus in new and active ways” said Amalia Cosmetatou. “So we will take the spirit of our Festival to the streets of New York.”

  • Narcissus & Architecture (October 9): With Matt PostalMunicipal Art Society of New York. Starting at the Olympic Tower, a walking tour explores human self-glorification in the architecture of midtown Manhattan.  1 to 2:30pm.
  • Narcissus & Poetry: POEMobile (October 9; Astoria, Queens): A hand-painted truck that projects poems onto buildings and underscores them with music and live performances. POEMobile is produced by City Lore and Bowery Arts + Science and will be presented at the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York in Astoria.
  • Narcissus & Song (October 10; BAM, Brooklyn): Eleanor Friedberger, the singer-songwriter best known as the frontwoman of Brooklyn indie rock band The Fiery Furnaces, helps celebrate Narcissus in lyrics with selections from her “warm, inviting and groovy” (T Magazine) last album “Personal Record.”


Sunday, October 11 is Festival Family Day, a day of fun and exploring the myth through various disciplines from the specially commissioned short animated film Moon Mirrors to building their own Reflective City with Materials for the Arts. Families can create their own Narcissus flower, Narcissus comic, and Narcissus soundtrack, and hear the myth in an interactive storytelling session. Featuring experienced arts and science educators and astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman.


  • The Seminar (October 10): Intimate groups of up to 12 people can participate in round-table 45-minute sessions featuring prominent speakers. The schedule is as follows:
    • 11 AM: Fani Papageorgiou on the virtues of Not Writing
    • 12 PM:  Sean Carney, Andrea Arrubla, and Jarrett Earnest of the BHQFU on self-portraiture
    • 1 PM:  Jeff Dolven on Milton’s “Narcissa” in Paradise Lost
    • 2 PM:  Kristin Dombek on how narcissistic are you?
    • 3 PM:  Mina Stone on reflecting yourself in your cooking
    • 4 PM:  Jamieson Webster on Freud’s On Narcissism and Lacan’s Mirror Stage
  • Narcissus & Literature (October 10): Lorin Stein (editor of the Paris Review) will moderate a panel featuring Elif BatumanJohn Jeremiah Sullivan, and Jessica Moss.  How do writers interact with the mirror of the page? Award-winning essayists discuss the uses and perils of the first person in modern and classic literature.
  • Narcissus & Acting (October 10): Paul Giamatti and Vanessa Grigoriadis engage in an in-depth discussion on the complex relationship between performer and audience, and the mirrors they hold up to each other.
  • Moon Mirrors: A Short Film (October 11): Award-winning filmmakers Sharon Shattuck and Ian Cheney will tell the story of an experiment in which Apollo astronauts left mirror arrays on the moon to study its relation to the earth. This animated short science film offers a cosmic look at the myth. Following each screening, filmmakers and astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman answer questions from the audience. An introduction presents the context for the 6-minute film screening, followed by a 30-minute audience discussion and science demonstration of how the retroflectors, the special mirrors placed on the moon, work. Moderated by Matthew Stanley.  Screening times: 10-11 AM; 12-1 PM; 2-3 PM.
  • Narcissus & Fashion (October 9): In choosing what to wear, each of us starts our day with a moment of creative narcissism. An award-winning writer, an illustrator, and a designer discuss the importance of “I” in fashion. Moderated by Judith Thurman with Konstantin Kakanias, Mary Katrantzou, and Sarah Lewis.
  • YOU MUST KNOW WHERE YOU STOP AND THE WORLD BEGINS: Jenny Holzer: Jenny Holzer’s statement “YOU MUST KNOW WHERE YOU STOP AND THE WORLD BEGINS” is part of her “Truisms” series, which the artist started in the late 1970s. It will be displayed on the new waterfall at the Onassis Cultural Center NY for the duration of the Festival.


Narcissus Now Podcast: Created by journalist, documentarian, and sound artist Tania Ketenjian. Specially commissioned podcast features artists’ and scholars’ perspectives on the myth from its origin to its imprint in contemporary culture, scored with music by festival composer Stavros Gasparatos. Interviewees include Simon Blackburn, Jonah Bokaer, Angelos Chaniotis, Stavros Gasparatos, Violaine Huisman, Nina Katchadourian, Laura Kipnis, Daniel Mendelsohn, Adam Phillips and Lorin Stein.


With a nod to the symposia of ancient Greece, the Onassis Cultural Center NY has organized a contemporary conversation entitled World Citizens (October 23). Starting with the concept of cosmopolitanism as proposed by Greek philosopher Diogenes, an internationally distinguished panel of thinkers will discuss cultural understanding between people and nations and the long-lasting values that unite us.  The World Citizens participants include: K. Anthony Appiah, professor of Philosophy, Law, New York University, Elizabeth Diller, founding partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfrew, Pico Iyer, novelist and essayist, Yorgos Loukos, director, Lyon Opera Ballet, and President, Athens & Epidaurus Festival, Susan Meiselas, photographer, Magnum Photos and Orhan Pamuk, Nobel-laureate writer. The conversation will be moderated by Paul Holdengräber, director, LIVE from the NYPL. 

OCCNY will also present two musical highlights this season: an in-depth retrospective on the long tradition of RebetikaThe Blues of Greece (November 10 and November 12) and the world premiere of Petros Klampanis’s new jazz composition Chroma (December 9).

A full schedule of Festival events and a complete list of participants is available at

All Festival events are free and open to the public; reservations, required for some events, are available at on September 8.


Founded in 2000, the Onassis Cultural Center NY explores Hellenic culture, from antiquity to today, through a rich and diverse program of exhibitions, events and online engagement. Located in midtown Manhattan, in Olympic Tower, the newly renovated creative space offers experiences that inspire and support the interaction between audiences and artists and thinkers in all cultural fields from visual arts, dance, film, literature, music and theater to the humanities.  Programs and exhibitions—from scholarly to those designed for families and novices —are presented free of charge to make the experience accessible to all.


The Onassis Foundation (USA) is committed to the promotion of Hellenic culture.  By cooperating with educational and cultural institutions in Greece and throughout the Americas, the Onassis Foundation (USA) promotes cultural relations.  The mission of the Onassis Foundation (USA) is realized through two major initiatives: the Onassis Cultural Center New York (OCCNY) presents art and archaeological exhibitions and a season of major cultural and artistic events focused primarily on the humanities and science.  The academic program, the University Seminar Program, places eminent scholars from all over the world in universities in North and Latin America for lectures and seminars on topics related to Hellenic civilization.

Onassis Cultural Center NYOlympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10022

Maria Galanou
917-732-7167 direct
212-486-4448 x113