Marina Abramovic’s first art teacher came into her work room, cut off a piece of canvas, threw it on the floor, splashed glue on it, sand, red and black pigment, gasoline and set it on fire! ‘This is a sunset’, he said.
Later on she gave up painting when she felt she had perfected the technique and could no longer improve. Then she flung herself into Body Art. In one of her first performances she lays her hand on white paper, takes a knife and quickly starts stabbing between the spaces of her fingers. Going faster and faster she naturally ends up stabbing herself. She has recorded this sound and starts the cycle anew, now with the tape playing her previous stabbings, she tried to repeat the mistakes she made in the past. The first few times fail but later on she gets the grip, she becomes rhythm. She never completed this test because she was afraid to use the twentieth knife since she thought she’d stab herself in the chest. “That stab would be the climax”.
In another performance she made herself into an object. For six hours visitors could do whatever they wanted with her. She brought along several objects such as make up, pencils, flowers, knifes, a gun… At one point a man took the gun, loaded it, held it to her head and started pressing the trigger. “He wanted to see if I’d go along, and I did. But he stopped, I didn’t; he was frustrated, I wasn’t.
Well, I know what you’re thinking, this woman is insane. I thought the same. But then I came across one little sentence that made me rethink my pessimist opinion: “[I want my] audience to get aware of their own existence. I use my body as a tool, an object. With that I must clarify that they’re numb. Something has to start.” So she isn’t a narcissistic masochist, she simply wants to make people more aware, more alive? It’s true when you see certain performances of her on tape that you feel more alive, you think ‘Oh no! What is this woman doing? Isn’t she hurting?’ As a human being you empathise and if you watch her you get hurt yourself. And we all know pain is one of the strongest feelings that make us feel alive.
In the contrary to happenings -which are purely politically provoking-, performances are meditative; they have a vague sense of spirituality. The artists give themselves up -their bodies at least- to make others aware of life. Or maybe even to makes themselves aware of living. I think this is wonderful yet I still don’t know if I agree and she makes me doubt about my personal definition of art. However she does appeal to my inner voyeur and I am a little fascinated of the performances she did with her former boyfriend, Ulay. I didn’t find any videos of Marina’s solo performances but luckily there are some of her together with Ulay. Check them out for yourself, beware for the boringness though.
They bonded via their performances for years. Sadly, in The Great Walk they would both walk four thousand kilometres on the Great Wall of China towards each other but instead of a Chinese wedding ceremony on their reunification Marina would break up with Ulay.
Strange lady that Marina.