Marina Abramović is a Serbian performance artist born in Yugoslavia. In her nearly five decade career she has preformed radical and questionable feats pushing and defying the limit for
what art can be and what performance art can be. I went to see her talk with City Arts and Lectures, a privilege I had been given through the Creative Writing Department. It was at the Nourse Theatre with interviewer and mediator Maria Popova. I was completely blown away by this women. I was seated in in the balcony, straining to see the large yellow-lighted stage where the two women sat facing the audience in large upholstered chairs. They seemed so far away but when Marina Abramović spoke her voice echoed powerfully and filled the theatre space making her seem close, nearly touchable.
Some of Abramović’s most significant work includes “The Artist is Present” and “Rhythm 5” among others. “The Artist is Present” (2010) was shown in the New York’s MoMa where Abramović sat unmoving in a chair, a table and another chair opposite her. Visitors were welcomed to sit across from Abramović where she would simply maintain stable eye contact with the guest until they left. The piece lasted 750 hours, stretching over several months and thousands of people waited in line to sit across from the famous performance artist.
In “Rhythm 5” (1974) Abramović constructed a wooden star in which she soaked in petroleum, sprawled in the center of, and set on fire. The piece was brought out of Abramović’s thoughts on the strict Communist government that Yugoslavia lived under. In the interview she talked about how the Communist star was everywhere growing up: on buildings, in her house, on her birth certificate, and how she wanted to get rid of it, how she wanted to “burn it” so it was no longer apart of her. She also discussed while performing “Rhythm 5” she fell unconscious due to
the lack of oxygen in the burning star and how this frustrated her. She felt she had lost control and was angry at the fact that the body had limitations. I thought Abramović’s work raised the question “What is art?” and “Why is this art?” as her pieces were so unfocused from the traditional lense of the fine arts and even modern arts.
“I learned very early if you want to be an artist, not to compromise….I make my work without any compromise” said Abramović as she discussed the struggles she faced trying to become successful through her performance art. “The plumber had more money than the performance artists” she remarked. This inspired me greatly, to see a women who had come from so little and had made her way to place where she could talk freely about her ideas and create what she wanted. She spoke with such wisdom and gracefulness her words kept the audience at an attentive silence. I was extremely engaged the entirety of the talk, Abramović charismatic personality wrapping me and afterwards leaving me with more questions than I began with. Although this wasn’t a usual reading I did not exit any less inspired.
Julieta Roll, class of 2019