Interview with the Guardian regarding her work.
“I test the limits of myself in order to transform myself” states former resident of Belgrade (Yugoslavia) Marina Abramovic in an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper. The now 63 year old Abramovic gives a short, insightful glimpse into her life as a performance artist. In the interview, she clearly makes her stance known on the difference between performance art and all other types of art— “To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre, theatre is fake...Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real” (Abramovic qtd by Sean O’Hagan). Later on in the interview, Abramovic vehemently proclaims the disgrace performance art has received in the art world. In her performance art, Abramovic’s pattern lies in the shock value of her audience in which she physically inflicts pain upon herself (Rhythm 10, 1973), allows herself to be mistreated by others (Rhythm 0, 1974) and endures many hours of endless solitude (The Artist is Present, 2010); and all for the sake of the art?
Unlike other performance artists, Abramovic is the focus of her performances—she is the one involved in the act of her art. Abramovic’s initial draw to painting soon melded into performance art as she began experimenting with “sound and confrontation” while recording the sound of a bridge collapsing and projecting it loudly onto the streets by a bridge. She explains her motive as “always wanting to shake everything up.” Through this fascination, she was led to Belgrade’s Academy of Fine Arts in which she greatly involved herself in public performances with other students and where her passion in performance art immensely grew. As a child, her escape was through painting because her family was divided as her parents greatly supported the Communist party and she lived with her grandmother who had strong ties to the Orthodox Church in Belgrade. She explains how everything in her “childhood [was] about total sacrifice, whether to religion or to communism” which may be the reason for her direct involvement in all her performances. The defaming one sees in Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful, 1975 shows Abramovic violently brushing her hair while muttering the title of the piece which is an example of this type of self-internalization, self-inflicting pain that she controls unlike the pain experience in her childhood.
In the early 70’s, Abramovic was drawn to creating performances where she inflicted pain immediately onto herself in order to express her personal struggle. She states her motivation and inspiration to create these confrontational, and often hard to watch pieces, derives from her obsession of the tension between her communist and religious ties as a child; “It makes me who I am” (Abramovic). The violence and vulgarity one experiences in many of her films and performances challenges the audience to further enter into her art, though physically one may feel the desire to turn or walk away.
Abramovic’s latest performance, The Artist is Present (2010), presented at MoMA, is a performance in which Abramovic sits on a wooden chair at a wooden table for six hours during the museum’s hours. An empty chair is filled by many different visitors of MoMA as they agree to sit in silence, stillness and look into Abramovic’s eyes. She explains in the interview that many people would cry, which, in her mind, reveals her power to see “into” people through their masks and layers of fear and insecurity; “I give people a space to simply sit in silence and communicate with me deeply but non-verbally. I did almost nothing, but they take this religious experience from it. Art had lost that power, but for a while Moma was like Lourdes” (Abramovic). Although this may seem like a “simple” task, Abramovic had to train like NASA, literally, in order to be able to sit still for hours on end from March to May. Her entire normal schedule of life was devoted to this piece inside and outside of the performance times revealing that Abramovic’s life revolves around her art—her life is her artistic form. Abramovic explains her dedication to her form of art is what drives her in all her performances pieces. She is continually pushing the limits as to what she can perform in order to convey her emotions, thoughts and opinions about life and art in general. Unfortunately, the performance piece is no where to be found online, but photographs of those who sat with Abramovic can be found. Part of Abramovic’s belief is that the performance is intended for participation and interaction with the artist and the viewer which is why Abramovic is directly involved in the performing of her pieces—she makes the art communal by coming face to face with the audience in a provocative way.
Interview on her website titled "The body as medium."
Commentary by Lady Gaga on Marina. Really interesting.