Episode #2 of the course “Ground-breaking contemporary artists”
Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic has spent the last 45 years pushing the limits of the meaning of “self-expression” in international exhibits. She has also taught art classes in top institutes. Reactions to Abramovic’s work have always been mixed, but she is heralded today as one of the most revolutionary artists in history, considered “the grandmother of performance art.” She often risks her life and well-being in her performances, and the 67-year old stated in a 2015 interview that when she looks back on her life, “I think I should be dead by now.”
Abramovic’s work explores a redefinition of “power,” often by making the audience an interactive part and herself a passive member. She especially wants people to question the power of government, the powers of the body and mind, and the power that people exert on one another.
Abramovic grew up in Belgrade, studying at the Academy of Fine Arts there and in Croatia and finishing in 1972. In her first performance piece in 1973, she gained immediate attention when she stabbed at her hands with 20 knives, then attempted to repeat the performance exactly—even the mistakes.
Some of Abramovic’s most memorable performances include remaining passive for 6 hours while allowing the audience to manipulate her body with a number of objects (Rhythm 0, 1974), walking the length of the Great Wall of China (The Great Wall Walk, 1988), and a 736.5 hour silent performance where she sat in the Museum of Modern Art and visitors were invited to sit with her (The Artist is Present, 2010).
The Artist is Present
Abramovic is making plans for her future. In Hudson, New York, she plans to open the Marina Abramovic Institute, where she will teach “mindfulness exercises.” She also released plans for her funeral, which she considers an artist’s final performance. Marina wants her real body and two fake ones buried in cities she feels strongly connected to—Belgrade, Amsterdam, and New York. She wants the location of the real body to remain secret.
“The hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing because it is demanding all of you.”
“Because in the end you are really alone, whatever you do.”
“I have always staged my fears as a way to transcend them.”
“Your ego can become an obstacle to your work. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.”
“We are used to cleaning the outside house, but the most important house to clean is yourself – your own house – which we never do.”
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