Thankful Thursday: Marina Abramović

I am thankful for Marina Abramović.

She’s described as the ‘grandmother of performance art’, and she was introduced to me by my media teacher. Marina began her career in the early 1970’s, and had been working for over three decades. That makes her 67.

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Perhaps this is just me, but if I look like that at 67 I’ll be very impressed with myself. Google her and you’ll see that this isn’t just a particularly good picture, she looks great all of the time.

Not that her appearance actually matters, because it’s her talent that makes her truly impressive. She’s slightly quirky, and her work centres around exploring the physical and mental lengths of her body, for example in 2010 she presented ‘The Artist is Present’, where for three months she spend eight to ten hours per day sitting motionless, engaged in silent eye-contact with hundreds of strangers one-by-one. The point of this was to expose human vulnerability.

This was really shown when, without her knowing, her ‘teenage sweetheart’ showed up at ‘The Artist is Present’, who she had not seen since they broke up. (They broke up in a pretty awesome way FYI, they both decided to walk from each end of the Wall of China and hug in the middle, then parting their separate ways. Dramatic, I know.) This was her reaction when she opened her eyes and he was sat in front of her:

Another piece of her work that is particularly iconic was held in 1974 and was called ‘Rhythm 0’. Marina remained completely passive for six hours, in front of a table with 72 random objects placed on it. These were separated into two categories: torment and pleasure. Within the pleasure category there were items such as honey, sugar and a rose, and within the torment category there were knives, scissors, and a gun with only a single bullet. This is the crazy part – the nature of the performance was purely in the audience’s hands.

Throughout the six hours she was drawn on, kissed, cut and soaked in water, until eventually one audience member actually picked up the gun, loaded it, placed it in her hand, and aimed it at her neck, causing a fight to break out. Although, this just proved Marina’s ideas of how far the human race would go for entertainment/to cause drama. Surprisingly, she lasted the whole six hours, and when the time was up, she just calmly came out of her fixed state and left the performance area. I know I definitely could never, ever be that focused. Especially if someone had basically just tried to shoot me.

My obsession with Marina probably seems a bit weird to some people, but I’m just kind of obsessed and I’m not sure why. If I’ve got you hooked, you can read more about her here: http://www.marinaabramovicinstitute.org/mai/mai/4. 

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Are you a fan of the ‘Grandmother of Performance Art’? If you are, tweet me @LLeaCunningham

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