The queen of performance art: Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović is a Serbian-American artist famous for her performances that explore the most instinctive (and often dark) traits of the human soul. She has called herself "Grandmother of performance art" in order to underline the scope of her way of understanding the artistic performance that often involves the participation of the public, both mentally and physically. Let’s discover together who this revolutionary woman is.


Summing up this artist’s biography in the extreme, we should take into consideration three cities, fundamental to tell her story: Belgrade, Amsterdam and New York. Belgrade is her homeland, where she took her first steps in the world of art, attending the Academy of Fine Arts from 1965 to 1972; Amsterdam is the city where she met the German artist Ulay, an important partner in her creative life; New York is the city of consecration, where the artist still lives.



But what is performance art actually? In these performances, the work of art is no longer an immovable object, but an "event", which can be a dance, a dialogue or a series of actions. It involves a deep involvement of the spectator, even at a physical level. Performance artists make noise, scandalize, often frighten for their ability to dig in the darkest caves of the ego, playing on the boundary between life and death, and Marina Abramovic is for sure one of the leading exponents of this current.


Among the most famous works of Marina Abramović are the "Rhythm" series and the "Freeing The Body", "Freeing The Memory" and "Freeing The Voice" series, made in the 70s.


In particular, the series “Rhythm” struck for the violence the artist inflicted on herself to bring her body to the physical limit. “Rhythm 0”, which was held in Naples in 1974, was even more sensational. Abramović stood in the center of a room in which there were various objects (knives, feathers, ropes, scissors and even a gun) and explained to the spectators that for six hours she would have been remained motionless as an object and everyone could have made what they wanted of her body. After a couple of hours of hesitation, the spectators began to rage over the artist, in a violent and uncontrolled way: they cut off her clothes, cut her skin with a razor blade, until pointing the gun at her. At that point other spectators intervened, and a heated discussion that risked leading to a brawl arose. The performance, all things considered, worked. She showed the worst side of human beings who, if certain of impunity, risk giving vent to the worst sadistic fantasies. The work of Abramović, however, ended with a feeble hope and someone, in the end, opposed that senseless violence.


In Amsterdam, in 1976 Marina Abramović met the German performer Uwe Laysiepen (also known as "Ulay"). A deep artistic and sentimental union was immediately born. Together they created famous works such as “Rest/Energy”, or as the performance “Imponderabilia” (Bologne, 1977) in which the two artists, completely naked, stood in front of each other at the entrance of a narrow passage; the spectators were forced to pass to enter the museum, choosing whether to give their back to the man or to the woman. The performance, which was supposed to last three hours, was interrupted by two policemen after two hours, because it was considered obscene.

The farewell between the two artists also became a work of art, entitled “The Lovers” (1988). The two went to the opposite ends of the Wall of China (Ulay started from the Goby Desert, Abramović from the Yellow Sea) and after a long they met halfway to embrace and say goodbye.



Another Abramović’s famous work was “Balkan Baroque”, presented at the Venice Biennale in 1997. In this performance the artist stood in a cellar full of bloody and smelly beef bones, which she cleaned incessantly for days from blood and worms while singing laments. The work, which made explicit reference to the horrors perpetuated in the Balkan War, was awarded the Golden Lion.

Marina Abramović has "spread" her artistic path, made of exploration of body and mind, to help people to get in touch with the deepest part of themselves, thanks to her "Abramović Method". Many things have been said about her, but what is certain is that regardless of the opinions, she has revolutionized the world of performance art, making each of her works an event to be told to others, as an adventure, a journey into the depths of themselves.


Articolo a cura di: Marijana Jovanovic



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