Photo by Ben D Woods


A journey through time, to the first signs of animal life on Earth


In 1946, fossils of the planet’s first multicellular animals were discovered in the Flinders Ranges
mountains of South Australia. Evolving almost 600 million years ago, these Ediacaran
organisms were soft-bodied creatures, like jellyfish, which rarely are preserved in rock as they
lack skeletons. Yet these ancient species defied expectations, with their bountiful remains
appearing at over two-dozen sites from Brazil to Ukraine.

When composer Constantine Koukias and pianist Gabriella Smart visited the Ediacara Fossil
Site in Australia’s Southern Desert, they were captivated by the layers of sediment built up over
millions of years, both smothering and preserving these monumental relics. The seismic
phenomenon inspired PRIMORDIAL’s initial form: a live piano performance combined with a
recording by Smart, captured at the site in May 2021, and Mischa Duncan Te Pas’s original
sound-design tape. Creating a visceral listening experience, Koukias’s composition conjures a
haunting and fragile landscape which reflects an archaic continent.

Now, in a series of documentaries and performances, PRIMORDIAL expands to further re-
enact and interpret the shifting tectonic plates that formed these spectacular signs of past life.
Beginning in 2024, the creative team will visit 11 additional Ediacara fossil sites around the
world where Smart will record the work in situ, as she first did in Australia. Every performance
will create another stratum of the work and will be accompanied by a short documentary film
featuring each site’s unique landscape. The culmination of the project will occur in late 2027,
with a performance featuring all 12 layers and a feature-length documentary.


Producer: Constantine Koukias
Piano: Gabriella Smart

Director: Robin van Erven Dorens
Writer & Researcher: Charles Shafaieh

Commissioned by The Hon. Christopher Schacht & Soundstream new music

“Koukias’ sharp and at times fragile music miraculously reflected this vast landscape on the edge of the Australian desert”

— Thomas Tamvakos, Archive of Greek Composers, 2020

Tanafjorden, Norway
Charnwood Forest, UK
Huangling Anticline, South China


Wernecke & Mackenzie Mountains, Canada
Newfoundland, Canada
Death Valley/ White Inyo Mountains, USA
Sonora, Mexico


Corumba, Brazil
Farm Aar & Farm Plateau, Southern Namibia


South & Central Urals, Siberia
Dniester River, Ukraine


February 26 MONA FOMA Festival, Australia



October 18 Nassaukerk, Amsterdam
October 31 Cultural Centre, Novi Sad, Serbia
November 1 Dom Kulture, Belgrade, Serbia



May 20 Burra, South Australia
May 21 Melrose, South Australia
May 22 Blinman, South Australia
May 23 Warooka, South Australia
May 28 Port Augusta, South Australia
May 29 Whyalla, South Australia
May 30 Port Lincoln, South Australia
July 31 Nexus Arts, Lion Arts Centre Adelaide, Illuminate Festival
November 26 Hackett Hall, WA Museum Boola Bardip, Presented by TURA

Constantine Koukias


Constantine Koukias is a producer of music, opera, and film.

Based in Amsterdam since 2013, he has created productions for the stage and screen ranging from large-scale music theatre and opera to mobile installation art and digital events.

His production-design credits from a career spanning over four decades include the internationally acclaimed Days and Nights with Christ (1990), To Traverse Water (1992), MIKROVION (Small Life – 36 Images in a Phantom Flux of Life) (1994), Medea (1995), Odyssey (1995), PULP – An Industrial Opera (1996),The Divine Kiss (1998), Sea Chant (2001), Tesla – Lightning in His Hand (2003), The Barbarians (2013), Backwards from Winter (2018), and A Deep Black Sleep (2023).

In 1993, he was commissioned by the Sydney Opera House Trust to compose the large-scale music-theatre piece ICON, in celebration of the building’s twentieth anniversary.

He has been commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania, for Kimisis – Falling Asleep (2010), The Barbarians (2013), and Before the Flame Goes Out (2017). A Deep Black Sleep, a film-noir opera, premiered at the MONA FOMA festival in 2023.

Since 2018, Koukias has produced two short films: A Day in June (2018; dir. Peter Sieben) and The Pain of Others (2023; dir. Slaviša Drobnjaković). He is currently in planning and pre-production stages for Eros & Thanatos (2024; dir. Drobnjaković) and Shaped by Trees.

From 2024–2027, he will be producing a series of documentaries and performances for the new work Primordial.

Gabriella Smart

Gabriella Smart


Pianist Gabriella Smart is a leading advocate of new music. Touring extensively in Australia and internationally for over 30 years, she has premiered over 80 new works for solo piano in Europe and China. Her expertise and leadership as an Australian representative artist has been recognised with numerous awards and grants including a Helpmann Award, a Churchill Fellowship, an Arts SA Fellowship, a Prelude Composer Residency, and, in 2019, an APRA AMCOS Award for Excellence by an Individual. As an improviser, she has collaborated with numerous acclaimed artists including Lisa Gerrard, Brian Ritchie, Cat Hope, and Paul Grabowsky.

Robin van Erven Dorens


Robin van Erven Dorens is an independent filmmaker from Amsterdam. He makes documentaries, films on commission and music videos.

His documentary Ik ben een zwarte beeldhouwer (“I am a black sculptor”) is a poetic quest for the imagination and inspiration of the Amsterdam artist Nelson Carrilho, who expresses his African origins with his bronze sculptures. In this time of polarisation, Carrilho feels the pain of the colonial past and transforms this pain into monumental statues.

The documentary In Groove We Trust is a cinematic expression of the musical spirit of Joseph Bowie: the foreman, singer and trombone player of Defunkt, the eccentric, highly influential New York based hard-core jazz-funk band from the 80s. Starting off as a regular music documentary, with a lot of live music, this film appears to be a search for the definition of ‘groove’. The story line takes many surprising twists and therewith passes along many aspects of Bowie’s inspiration, his character and his musical ambitions. While themes like heroin addiction, racism, personal responsibility, buddhism and commercialism in music come along in often humorous scenes, Bowie is shown as a man of great contrasts.

Robin also made documentaries about the visual artist Hilarius Hofstede and Former USSR leader Michaël Gorbachov, among many other projects. Currently he makes video’s for musicians and for the Nederlandse Bach Vereniging (Dutch Bach Society).

Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Charles Shafaieh

Writer & Researcher

Charles Shafaieh is an arts critic and journalist whose writing on theatre, visual art, literature, architecture, film, and music has appeared in The New Yorker, The Financial Times, Artforum, The Irish Times, The Times Literary Supplement, and Mastermind, among other international publications. An editor at large for The Brooklyn Rail, he regularly contributes to Harvard Design Magazine and Opera News. For the Brooklyn Public Library, he co-curates LitFilm, an annual film festival which focuses on documentaries about writers. He is based in Paris.