mark so

november 18th, 2018

exhibition documentation

press release

Museum as Retail Space (MaRS) is pleased to perform and document Heliogabalus: Anarchy by Mark So. 

Heliogabalus: Anarchy, the final of a cycle of three operas by Mark So, will ceremonially close Museum as Retail Space (MaRS); both the performance and the program being an impossible parallax of neoliberal art world context with esoteric cosmology. Time and relationships are circular. Civilization hardens symbols, essence, and the living, into things, stuff, and the dead, though anarchic rites can revive them. 


  1. Robert Zin Stark

  2. Lucienne Aeon  

  3. Daniel Smith 

The operas compound from a concentric series of histories and inspirations: 

Elagabalus was the 25th Emperor of Rome, ruling only from 218 AD to 222 AD before being assassinated by his own guard. In those four years he replaced the traditional head of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter, with the Sun God of his own priesthood, installed his mother and grandmother as the first women to be in the Roman Senate, and publicly married both men and women during his mystical reign of sexual rites and debauchery. 

Strikingly similar to Akhenaten who dared to reorder the Egyptian pantheon to worship only Ra, the Sun God, he was also willfully depicted as effeminate—as a union of male and female principles—reigning as a true Priest-King. They were both deposed of from within their own courts, and both erased from history by their own societies. 

Antonin Artaud took on the challenge of writing a biography of "Heliogabalus" shortly after he published his Manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty in 1932, resulting in a mystic-philosophic-historic three-part work; Heliogabalus, Or The Crowned AnarchistThe Cradle of SpermThe War of Principles, and Anarchy

In this pluralistically inspired cycle of operas, Mark So utilizes an alternation of speaker-amplified voices and the silence of cognition to read Artaud's text with interstices of his own, sometimes obscene, love poems. 

On Heligoabalus

"Words from the texts of So's obsessive love letters are printed on transparencies which block out words from the text underneath, “Heliogabalus, Or The Crowned Anarchist” by Antonin Artaud. The chance alignments of texts is like an on/off switch; at each moment, the work is more or less cut out for the readers, with just a little bit of choice, leaving all the room in the world for their brains to focus on their teeth (or tongues?) sinking into the saturated concoction of Artaud's Heliogabalus and sperm-cults and So's vulgar confessions. Once anarchy comes along, two voices are being spoken by three, and even when only one voice is speaking, there is always some feeling of sharing going on. Despite the silences and poetic pacing, a listener will feel, whether or not he or she wants, deeply immersed in the naughtiest and most beautiful Roman bath." ~ Julia Holter,
L.A. Record



Mark So (born June 14, 1978 in Syracuse, NY) is an American experimental composer and performer living in Los Angeles. His works, numbering over 800 (including a group of about 300 concerning poems of John Ashbery), are mostly text-based and influenced by New York School aesthetics, Fluxus, and the Wandelweiser composers collective.