Despina radically re-thinks performance art as ‘Spatium Monstrorum’: ‘surface’ occupied only by intensities, locus of parrhēsia, stage of trauma, event of Beauty and philosophy-as-embodied practice.
Despina was born in Arcadia, Greece. She is the Academic Leader of the RCA Contemporary Art Summer School and of the ‘Rethinking Contemporary Performance Art’ Masterclass. She has been leading MA Crits, Tutorials and School Groups at the RCA since 2016.
Despina holds a Practice-led Ph.D. in Philosophy and Fine Art (Performance, Royal College of Art) supported by an Onassis Foundation Scholarship, a Master in Fine Arts, a Master in Visual Arts (Costume Design, Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Art) supported by the Greek State's Scholarship Foundation, a MSc & a Diploma (Hons) in Architecture, all of the above awarded with the highest distinction (summa cum laude).
Despina Zacharopoulou’s research approaches and interests revolve around a radical rethinking and re-making of performance art, moving away from traditional approaches which limit live art discourse within binaries, essentialism and fixed identities. What Despina suggests instead, is a re-situating of contemporary performance art as ‘surface’ occupied and circulated only by intensities.
While dismissing the practice v.s. theory binary, Despina Zacharopoulou’s approach acquires the form of a zētēsis or flânerie, and involves performance making as its research method, subject and output (research-as-practice), fed by a constant dialogue of exchanges with philosophical texts that promote non-dialectical systems of thought (e.g. Spinoza, Foucault, Bataille, Deleuze & Guattari, De Sade, Lyotard, Nietzsche, Klossowski, Barad, Golding, etc).
Despina’s goal is to re-situate philosophy as embodied practice and method, and raise the question of whether contemporary performance art might operate as a mode de vie (a way of life) for a life which is radically other, experienced in its full intensity, in parrhēsia and in pure joy.
Her areas of interest include: modal ontologies, BDSM, surface topologies, technologies of the self, morphogenesis, chaos theory, vulnerability, practices of care, philosophies of ‘difference’, carnal knowledge.
Doctoral Fellowship, Onassis Foundation, Athens, Greece (2015-2018), Back on Track Fund, Royal College of Art, London, UK (2016), Annual Scholarship for MA studies, Greek State Scholarships Foundation (2012-2013), Erasmus-Socrates Scholarship, Paris, France, (2005).
Royal College of Art Student-Led Event Competition, 2016.
Lon Londau prize, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium, 2013.
(Finalist) Horlait Dapsens prize, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium, 2013.
Best Knowledge Exchange Social Award. Royal College of Art, 2022.
Shortlisted for the Delfina Foundation Residency ARTWORKS Fellowship, 2022.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation ARTWORKS Fellowship, 2021.
Current and recent projects
Spatium Monstrorum, 2021
Practice-led PhD supervised by Professor Johnny Golding and supported by the Onassis Foundation. A radical revaluation of performance art, dismissing existing attempts of grounding it upon universal concepts and representational schemas. Contemporary performance is instead looked at as ‘surface’ inhabited and circulated only by intensities.
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
(2022) World Stage Design Exhibition. Calgary.
(2022) RCA Graduate Show. Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art. London.
(2021) Despina Zacharopoulou: Remainders (Solo Show). Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art. London.
(2021) And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers? Kunsthalle Wien. Vienna.
(2020) SP-Arte (performing for the camera "We the Enemy" by SPIT!). Galleria Vermelho. São Paulo.
(2020) Art, Performance & the Act. University of Roehampton. London.
(2019) CONATUS: Carlos Motta (performing for the camera "We the Enemy" by SPIT!). PPOW Gallery. New York.
(2019) There's something lurking in the shadows that might be interesting. Dyson Gallery, RCA. London.
(2019) Data Loam: Sometimes Hard, Usually Soft. AIL, University of Applied Arts. Vienna.
(2019) Entanglement - The Opera. Gorvy Lecture Theatre, RCA. London.
(2018-2019) A possible Island?: Beyond Bliss, organized by the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) & the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB).
(2018) FLIGHT MODE. Asylum Caroline Gardens Chapel. London.
(2018) Carnival of Entanglement. Gorvy Lecture Theater, RCA. London.
(2017) The New Darkroom, organized by the RCA Queer Society. Dyson Gallery, RCA. London.
(2017) Frieze Special Projects, (performing "We the Enemy" by C.Motta), curated by Raphael Gygax. London Frieze.
(2017) ALCHEMIE. Anatomie Studio, London.
(2017) Daybreak. Asylum Caroline Gardens Chapel. London.
(2017) 5 MINUTES OF YOUR TIME. The doodle bar. London.
(2017) Inhabiting CSM, curated by Simon Banos. Central Saint Martins Library. London.
(2016) Performing Identities. Dyson Gallery, RCA. London.
(2016) (activating Martha Araujo’s works) PM8 galleria. London Frieze.
(2016) ME/YOU YOU/ME. Gallery Sensei. London.
(2016) BEING-DOING. Asylum Caroline Gardens Chapel. London.
(2016) MATTER. Royal College of Art. London.
(2016) AS ONE, organised by NEON + MAI (Marina Abramović Institute). Benaki Museum. Athens.
(2016) OTHER. Courtyard Galleries, Darwin Building, RCA. London.
(2015) FUCK/LIVE/ART: Franko B's Birthday Bash. The Flying Dutchman, Mori & Stein Gallery. London.
(2015) Drawing Exhibition. Sculpture Department, Royal College of Art, London.
(2015) An Event by Alexandra Bachzetsis and a DJ Act by Lies Vanborm (participating as a performer). David Roberts Arts Foundation. London.
(2015) Costume At The Turn of The Century 1990-2015. A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum. Moscow.
Zacharopoulou, D. (2023, upcoming). Contracts as Protocols of Governmentality in Performance Art. In: Performance Research, Vol. 28, No. 1: On Meeting (January / February 2023).
Zacharopoulou, D. (2022). being surface. In: Performance Philosophy, Open Issue Vol. 7, No.2 (2022):111–140. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2022.72360. ISSN 2057–7176.
Zacharopoulou, D. (2021). Protreptic. In: J.Golding, Reinhart, Paganellli, Coster, eds., Data Loam-Sometimes Hard, Usually Soft [on the future of knowledge Systems]. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 292 - 295.
(2019) Despina Zacharopoulou - Protreptic. In: 1st Bangkok Art Biennale: Beyond Bliss 2018 (Exhibition Catalogue). Bangkok: BAB, pp. 376-377.
Zacharopoulou, D. (2018). Masturbatory Acts as Manifestations of Zētēsis and Parrhēsia. In: PROVA magazine, Issue 2. London: RCA, Research - Royal College of Art, pp. 32-39. Also available online as a lecture given at the RCA: https://vimeo.com/274639793
Motta, C., Peetz, Romero, eds. (2017). The SPIT! Manifesto Reader: A Selection of Historical and Contemporary Queer Manifestos (referenced as participating performance artist). London: Frieze Projects. https://carlosmotta.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/SPITReader_Final.pdf
References in Academic Papers
David, J., and Valdés, S.P.V. (2019). Strange Attractor Factor beyond Performance Art in a Time – Based Media Context. In: International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) Volume III Issue XI (November 2019), pp. 153-164. https://www.rsisinternational.org/journals/ijriss/Digital-Library/volume-3-issue-11/153-164.pdf
Spyrou, Dimitrios. (2021). Despina Zacharopoulou: ‘my practice is all about looking at the world as a matter-energy continuum occupied by forces’ [Interview]. The Art Newspaper Greece. https://theartnewspaper.gr/mila-moy-gia-sena/despoina-zacharopoyloy
Mahasarin, P. (2018). A year on the Thai Stage. In: The Nation Thailand. https://www.nationthailand.com/lifestyle/30361172
Norapoompipat A. (2018). Every molecule of Marina. In: Bangkok Post. https://www.bangkokpost.com/life/arts-and-entertainment/1567594/every-molecule-of-marina
Chaiwiroj, C. (2018). Marina Abramović on "Beyond Bliss". In: L’Officiel Thailand. https://www.lofficiel.co.th/art/marina-abramovic-on-beyond-bliss?draft=a6db9051-e2cd-4a1e-80cc-440a14916539&updated_at=1540216249
(2017) London Frieze Special Projects. London: Frieze.
(2017) SPIT! talk us through their Frieze Project. https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2017/september/27/spit-talk-us-through-their-frieze-project/
Chatzinassiou, A. (2017). SPIT! Manifesto at London Frieze 2017. In: Liberal Newspaper. https://www.liberal.gr/news/spit-manifesto-sti-frieze-london-2017/170590
(2016) Εποχή των εικόνων - As One (Greek TV show). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU-YbkGaVOc
Donadio, R. (2016). Suffering for Art in Greece and Matching the National Mood. In: The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/09/arts/design/suffering-for-art-in-greece-and-matching-the-national-mood.html
Lindhoff, A. (2016). Dinge, die ich nicht mag. In: Frankfurter Rundschau Newspaper. https://www.fr.de/kultur/kunst/dinge-nicht-11636324.html
(2016) As one Exhibition Newspaper. Athens: Benaki Museum & NEON.
External collaborations and activities
(2021) Stavros Niarchos Foundation ARTWORKS Fellow.
(2018-2019) Invited performance artist, Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) & Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB).
(2016) Invited performance artist, Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) & NEON Organization.