Home Magazine Marina Abramovic predicts the future of performance art

Marina Abramović  - the grandmother of the performance art, who created the decalogue to be present in both time and space “ The Abramović Method” and, in 2010, performed for 716 hours in The Artist is Present at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, hypothesizes the future scenario of post-pandemic performance art. In recent years, performance has become almost mainstream art and, all of a sudden, we are in a situation where performance is not possible anymore because it needs direct contact with the audience in order to complete the work. What are the possible trajectories of the performance when being together and close is the new taboo?

Related article: 5 Reason for seeing Marina Abramović "The Cleaner"-Visiting Marina Abramovic's The Cleaner in Belgrade


"The House with the Ocean View" a long durational performance originally held by Marina Abramović (Serbia, born 1946) at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York in 2002, is a public living installation. For Ms Abramović, the rules are complex: no eating and no speaking for 12 days, while being exposed to the audience 24/7. But how exactly? To the beat of a metronome, living on a platform, five feet above the ground, divided into three open-faced rooms, each two feet away. The first white box has a toilet and shower, the other a chair and table and the last one is a bedroom with a bench, a little sink and 12 different colored pairs of pyjamas. The imperative is the rules for the audience: no talking and establish energy dialogue with the artist. An ascetic experiment - for both the performer and participants - which underlines the fragility of life and reveals our inner vulnerability. The metaphor of endurance and pure presence, "The House with the Ocean View" is so significant to anybody who has experienced isolation, during these strange months. “Doing nothing is the beginning of something”, a sacred statement on which Abramović reflects in conversation with “The week in art podcast” by The Art Newspaper. In this difficult time, the only one we have, transformation is possible and would be beneficial: our consciousness, sensitivity about the world, the whole idea of time and misconceptions regarding death will be inevitably changing, hopefully enhancing. 


Marina Abramović, The House with the Ocean View, 2002,  Three-channel video (color, sound), sink, bed, chair with mineral pillow, table, toilet, shower, seven pairs of trousers in seven colors, seven shirts in seven colors, six white towels, metal bucket, metronome, bar of natural soap, a bottle of rose water, a bottle of pure almond oil, Duration variable, The Museum of Modern Art.
Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery


Marina Abramović and ULAY. Rest Energy, 1980, 16mm film, transferred to video (color, sound). 4:07 min, The Museum of Modern Art, Courtesy Marina Abramović and Sean Kelly Gallery


Marina Abramović’s major UK retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts in London will be postponed until autumn 2021, due of course to the coronavirus. In “After Life” - the show’s title that recalls the necessity of legacy - her homage to German artist and long time companion Ulay (1943-2020) is going to change. Ms Abramović will donate him a proper funeral, perhaps re-performing a historical piece, extreme and emotional, right in Abramović’s wheelhouse. By using her body as an artistic medium - in "Rhythm 0" (1973/74), say, the audience was allowed to do whatever they wanted to her using scissors, chains, a pistol, an axe - the danger, adversity, the intertwining of life and death have always accompanied Abramović’s Body Art. In a “quasi opera” The Life and Death of Marina Abramović (2012), theatre director Robert Wilson stages her extraordinary life, beginning with a troubled childhood in former Yugoslavia, and imaginary death.


Photo from the performance of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic by Robert Wilson at the Park Avenue Armory in New York (2013).
Photo by Lucie Jansch


Marina Abramovic on the stage of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich for “7 Deaths of Maria Callas”. Photo by Wilfried Hösl.
© The New York Times


Confined to Austria, just as she was rehearsing "7 Deaths of Maria Callas" (it was to premiere on April 11 but derailed), on the stage of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Ms. Abramović was not disturbed at all by social distancing and isolation. Living like a modern nomad for 30 years, she loves to deal with the uncertainty of the present time and no, she won’t make any art immediately related to the disasters of the virus. Time must settle. "Balkan Baroque" - a performance awarded with the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1997 where Marina Abramović, by washing a pile of bones and trying to scrub the blood, tries to dissipate the shame of the Balkan war - took place long after the war in ex-Yugoslavia began. It was too intimate and close to being transposed into a discourse of universal value. Art should transcend the daily news, be disturbing, questioning, and see into the future.


Marina Abramović, Balkan Baroque, 1997, Three-channel video (color, sound), cow bones, copper sinks and tub filled with black water, bucket, soap, metal brush, dress stained with blood, 24:47 min,
The Museum of Modern Art, Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery


Marina Abramović, The Life, Serpentine Gallery 2019, Courtesy of the artist and Tin Drum Production


Meanwhile, in the middle of a pandemic, we can either try long durational exercises to improve individual focus, stamina and concentration, considering the idea of our body as a temple-like "Cleaning The House", a workshop that was developed by Ms. Abramović in the 1980s - or rethinks the entire contemporary ecosystem of a live performance by mixing virtual and augmented reality. It sounds mind-blowing, but that's what Marina Abramović tested with the first mixed reality work ever, ever sold at auction (Christie’s), "The Life" (2019) - a series of performances that took place at London’s Serpentine Gallery over five days. Presenting the artist as a 3D digital avatar and blending her with the real world, could be the solution. She can be present in any spot on the planet, while not being there. 

Only the undisputed pioneer of performing art can reach these technological peaks. Will other artists follow her and continue to explore Mixed Reality as an art form or turn back to a pure, honest art? In a totally out of balance world, there are countless and insidious paths to take.

Cover image: Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present, 2009, The Museum of Modern Art, Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery.

Written by Petra Chiodi 

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