The Work of Marina Abramovic. Insights in the lives of the ITS Jurors

22 October 2015


The ITS Juries have been honoured with the presence of people who have made history in their field. What else could one say of performance artist Marina Abramović? She is a pioneer in performance art, a woman who has pushed the boundaries of her mind and body as well as of those of interaction with an audience to the very limit. These limits she has strived to blur, destroy, walk over and leave behind during all of her career, and continues to do so.

Marina apparently mirrors through her body the limits of humanity itself. That can equally break down and cry as in “The Artist is Present“, where she sat for 736 hours inviting spectators to take turns in sitting opposite her (MoMa 2010) as well as become fiercely aggressive and abusive if given the possibility to do so, which is what happened with “Rhythm 0“, one of her earliest works. She displayed 72 objects on a table giving the audience six hours and complete freedom in regards to using them on her body. Among these were scissors, a bullet and a gun, honey, a scalpel and a whip. The performance tested the vulnerability of human behaviour when hidden from social consequences. Markings of aggression were apparent on Marina’s body once it was over, with cuts on her neck, clothes torn off, thorns in her stomach. The loaded gun had been pointed to her head.

Marina Abramovich - Rhythm 0
Marina Abramovich – Rhythm 0 (1974)

“Once you enter into the performance state you can push your body to do things you absolutely could never normally do.” At the same time though, as happened in Rhythm 0, “if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you”. The artist does not exist without the audience and this has never been true as with Marina Abramović’s body of work. She has experimented with her body and mind to put her own fears and limits to the test. She then passively allowed the audience to experiment their own limits by using (exploiting?) her own body. And finally, completely absorbed the spectators inside the performance as in “The Artist is Present”. Not just interacting anymore, rather performing themselves. This changed her life “completely, in every possible element, in every possible physical emotion”.

Marina Abramovich - The Artist is Present (2010)
Marina Abramovich – The Artist is Present (2010)

The “Abramović Method” is the step beyond that, born from the awareness that the performance act is capable not only of deeply transforming who produces it. It can radically change who experiences it too. In an age when time is our most precious belonging Marina asked the spectator-turned-actor to stop and focus on the nowness, the zeitgeist, on what first and foremost regards him: himself and his relationship with the surrounding space. The artist now becomes the teacher, guiding and pushing the audience through interactive installations aimed at exploring their physical and mental perceptions, trying to question them, expand them, listen to and learn from them.

Marina Abramovich at ITS
Marina Abramovich at ITS

The recently founded MAI – Marina Abramović Institute is a result of all of the above and uses the Abramović Method to help participants develop their ability to observe and take part in long duration performances through exercise and environments intended to increase their physical and mental awareness. Located in Hudson, New York, MAI is also meant to explore, support and present performances, encouraging collaboration between the arts, science and humanities. It will serve as the legacy of the Serbian performance artist.

MAI Prototype
MAI Prototype

“I believe ITS is very important because it is the place where the young talents can meet and articulate their collections. We can really discover their way of thinking, we can see the future of fashion, which is really something unique”. Said by the person who single-handedly revolutionised contemporary art and redefined what performance is, this is quite a statement.

If you want to learn more about the groundbreaking work of Marina Abramović, aside from the links that you can find above and of course the info you can find surfing on the internet we strongly suggest viewing the 2012 documentary “The Artist is Present” of which you can see a trailer here.

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