Change of Heart: Marina Abramović

18 March 2013

On the totem pole of art that interests me, at the lowest possible point would be performance art.  I have zero interest in the over the top, awkward, often attention-needy artists.  My personal opinion is that the dramatics should be left for the brush strokes and the interpretation.

A couple of years ago the “Grandmother of Performance Art,” Marina Abramović  had a retrospective at the MoMA titled, The Artist is Present.  Record breaking attendance flocked to the museum to see Marina who was literally “present” for the show.  Museum goers could wait in line to sit opposite her as long as they agreed to remain silent and stare motionless back into her eyes. She clocked over 700 hours, sitting for six days, seven hours a day.  Madonna, Sharon Stone, Bjork, Lou Reed, even a weeping Jessa from Girl’s –all queued.

simple yet elegant dress, one blue, red and white.

A documentary was made about the retrospective released earlier this summer, and I decided to revisit Marina and her “art.”  It was one interaction in particular with one of these museum-goers that changed my mind.  Let’s not go so far as to say performance art, but Marina in particular.

Uwe Laysiepen, better known as Ulay, was Marina’s long time lover and collaborator.  It started as an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. In natural performance artist form, when they felt their relationship had run its thirteen year course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each beginning from opposite ends.  When they met in the middle, they gave one another one last long embrace and never saw one another again. At the MoMa retrospective, Ulay arrived without her knowing and this is what happened:

The difference between theatre and performance art to Marina:

“To be a performance artist you have to hate theatre.  Theatre is fake… The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real. Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real.”

maria at the guggenheim, someone get me that dress.

Marina at the Guggenheim, someone get me that dress!

gasp! not a celebrity on the cover!

gasp! not a celebrity on the cover!

self portrait.

self portrait.

Since I scoffed at the “Artist is Present” retrospective, and now regret it, I’ll have to settle for her HBO documentary.  I most certainly will not miss her upcoming performances.

In December (yes, we have to wait almost an entire year) Marina Abramović will return to New York.  Her quasi-opera first premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2011, called “The Life and Death of Marina Abramović” and has played to sold-out audiences and rave reviews in Madrid, Basel, Antwerp and Amsterdam.   She’ll be joined by Willem Defoe at one of my favorite spaces in Manhattan, The Park Avenue Armory.

lesson learned: keep an open mind.

lesson learned: keep an open mind + an open heart.


Categories: Art, beauty | 4 Comments

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Jessica Arb Danial Art Advisory