10 things to know about Marina Abramović
Over the last 50 years, Marina Abramović has become the dominant personality in performance art. Her thought provoking, and often shocking pieces have attracted visitors from far and wide, transforming performance art from a niche into a recognized art form. Though she is famous for her openness, mystery still surrounds this Yugoslav-born artist. Join Artsper to discover 10 things you should know about Marina Abramović!
1. Abramović wasn’t originally interested in performance art
Abramović had a very strict upbringing, however, her mother was a huge supporter of the arts and encouraged Abramović’s artistic development from an early age. As a result, she was originally interested in painting and enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade to pursue this further. It was here, however, that Abramović began to explore her body both as the medium and the subject through performance art.
2. Controversy has surrounded Abramović since the start of her career
Abramović is known for pushing boundaries. Of her body, of her mind, of what people expect… This has unsurprisingly led to her repeatedly controversial exhibitions. For example, in her exhibition Rhythm 0 (1973), she stood immobile in a room for 6 hours along with 72 objects, ranging from a rose, to whips, mousetraps and a loaded gun. The audience was invited to use these objects on her however they wished and she apparently still has scars to this day.
3. She is a trailblazer
Abramović was one of the first performance artists to be accepted by the institutional museum world. She has had major solo show taking place across Europe and America over the past 25 years and has had major retrospectives held in her honor. What’s more, in 2023 Abramović will be the first female artist to hold a major solo exhibition in the Main Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
4. Abramović has been met with ridicule and derision
Particularly in the early days of her career, Abramović’s work was dismissed as being exhibitionist and masochist. In recent years she has also been cloaked in conspiracy theories as an online community is convinced she is either a cannibalistic satanist, or, because she is a member the “liberal elite”, part of a global paedophile ring. She has even received death threats as a result.
5. She now (literally) rubs shoulders with celebrities
In 2010, the MoMA held a retrospective of Abramović’s work, The Artist is Present. Here, she debuted her eponymous piece, whereby she sat quietly and museum visitors took turns sitting opposite her as she gazed back at them. Not only did this attract a record breaking 850,000 visitors over the course of the exhibition’s 3 month run time, it also projected her into worldwide fame. Since then, she has collaborated with Jay Z, Lady Gaga and James Franco.
6. She was in a relationship with Ulay for 12 years
Between 1976 and 1988 Abramovic was in a collaborative partnership with fellow performance artist Ulay. Within this period, they performed various provocative and surprising pieces together. For example, over a period of 17 hours, they sat motionlessly back to back with their hair tied together. On another occasion, they screamed into each other’s open mouths until they were hoarse. It is perhaps unsurprising then that the couple became known for rejecting convention…
7. Abramović is very interested in gender.
The artist has broached this topic at regular intervals throughout her career. A notable instance of this was in her collaborative work Imponderabilia (1977) where she and Ulay stood opposite each other naked in a museum’s narrow entrance. In doing so, they forced visitors to squeeze between them and choose which of the two to face, calling questions of gender into question.
8. She enjoys questioning the legacy of performance art
Generally, in the world of performance art, works have no life beyond their original staging. At various points throughout her career, Abramovic has attempted to counter this. For example, in her Seven Easy Pieces, she reenacted a series of ‘reperformances’ of seminal works. She also teaches her principals through workshops and her organizations in an effort to immortalize her work.
9. She is very spiritual
Abramović’s body art centers around her spirituality, her quest to explore her body as a site of spirituality. Beyond her art, she is also interested in meditation, shamanism, crystals, clairvoyants, star signs and she even has a woodland hut, fitted out with just a crystal, bed and chair.
10. Abramović has sometimes been accused to be a sensationalist
Abramovic is known to have said “I don’t make art for money, I make art because I believe in art.” Despite these claims, her motivations lie clearly away from the sensational. As she pushes her body and mind to the limit, she strives to prove that humans are freer than they think they are. Provoking for the sake of provoking does not seem to be on this master performance artist’s agenda.
Marina Abramović, a new form of performance art
The world of performance art has undergone a metamorphosis since Marina Abramovic’s entrance on the scene. Her spiritual explorations, her ruminations about the body, her questionings of gender and society… It remains to be seen what this master artist will wow the art world with next!
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