Marina Abramović, artist, director, producer and writer, sometimes calls herself a grandmother of performance and rightfully so. This Serbian woman is probably the first performance artist whose pieces and events became so famous and influential for many people. Her art was often scandalous and shocking for the general public but they never left the viewer unmoved.
Here are several of her most important performances that left a lasting impression on the audience.
A series of several performances that are centred around the limits of human body and mind.
Some of them may seem rather gruesome to most people. Marina Abramović isn’t afraid to inflict pain on herself and often uses her own body as a medium that helps to translate a certain idea.
In Rhythm 10 she played a game of knives where one must quickly stab a space between their fingers with a knife and try not to cut their hand. She recorded the process and then tried to repeat it exactly as it went the first time, even cutting herself in the same spots as before.
Rhythm 5 became almost lethal for her. Artist lit fire to a star drenched in petroleum, that was constructed on the ground. She cut her nails and hair and threw them into the fire, and then walked into the centre of the star herself. Soon, Marina lost consciousness because of the copious amounts of smoke.
The last and the most disturbing performance in the whole series is Rhythm 0. Here Abramović tested how far can people go, given absolute freedom and control over someone or something. For 6 hours straight, the artist was standing in a gallery next to 72 different objects, among which were paint, rose, wine, box of razor blades, yarn and a gun with a bullet. The sign next to her said that the the viewer is free to do as he pleases with the artist and is allowed to use whatever objects they want. At first, the public acted rather timidly, but the longer the artist remained passive, the more aggressive their actions became. People cut performer’s clothing in pieces, hurt her with thorns, and one man almost shot her trying to provoke a reaction.
Performances with Ulay
Ulay, also a performance artist, is an important figure in Marina’s personal and artistic life. They have been in a very emotional and turbulent relationships and went through no less emotional separation form each other.
During their time together they have created and showed many performances, pushing the limits of human consciousness and comfort.
In the performance “Breathing in / Breathing out” they were connected with their mouths and cut out from external sources of oxygen. Two artists had to breathe in the air their partner breathed out. They have beed doing it for approximately 20 minutes before falling on the ground.
Their break up was also marked by a performance in which they met in the middle of the Great Wall of China, having both started walking from it’s opposite ends.
In 1997 she showed Balkan Baroque on a Biennale in Venice. A space where she performed was filled with cow bones, among which sat Abramović herself in a white dress. The woman was cleaning blood and meat from the bones, shedding tears and humming folk songs that she knew from when she was a child. There were also 3 projectors, screening videos that corresponded with the theme of violence.
This particular piece can be interpreted as an answer and a reflection of the artist on what happened to her home. She was born in the city of Belgrade, when it was still a part of Yugoslavia. After a series of cruel armed conflicts and wars, it was divided in two parts and ceased to exist.
Seven Easy Pieces
Marina Abramović also did a series in Guggenheim Museum, in New York, where she repeated seven performances that have become momentous in art history. She recreated the works of Joseph Beuys, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Valie Export and Gina Pane, along with two pieces of her own.
This project was retrospective and personal for Marina. She felt the desire to ‘preserve’ the performances that have formed her as an artist, and tried to do it through staging them once again.