Whether you like it or not, Marina Abramovic will inspire you one way or another: she might inspire confusion, awe or a sense of deep contemplation. Her performances push the bodily, mental and emotional limits (both her own limits and those of her audience), and the experimental nature of her art has transformed even an icon of Pop superficiality like Lady Gaga as she practiced ‘Marina Abramovic Method’, which you can watch here.
I first learned about the Serbian artist through a friend who recommended her ‘Rhythm 0’, a performance in which she posed motionless for 6 hours as the audience picked and chose each and every one of the 72 objects that she had placed on a table as they pleased in relation to Abramovic’s body. First, people used flowers and other ‘mild’ objects, and then they eventually got aggressive with a knife, a whip and even a pistol that one man pointed at her head. Images from that performance have become an epitome of the barbarity of which some people are capable when dealing with passive and defenseless human beings.
Then I watched her ‘Rhythm 10’ in which she used a set of 20 knives to hit the table between the splayed fingers of her other hand in a very quick succession, hurting herself 20 times, then repeating the whole process (following the same rhythm and repeating the same mistakes) in an attempt to alter the sense of present and past.
That was in the 1970s, quite daring and pioneering at the time. But Abramovic still rocks! Her 2010 performance ‘The Artist is Present’ saw her sitting motionless for over 700 hours, as the audience could take turns sitting across the table from her and engaging in a silent, mutual gaze. The extent to which we are desperate for direct communication is stunning, and you could see people actually coming to tears as they felt the intensity of their own human condition in the process. You can watch it here. Yet another interesting performance from 2002 was The House with the Ocean View, which you can watch here.
Abramovic is one of my favorite contemporary artists, and I strongly encourage you to visit (and support) her Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI):