Marina Abramović (Serbian Cyrillic: Марина Абрамовић, pronounced [marǐːna abrǎːmoʋitɕ]; born November 30, 1946) is a Serbian conceptual and performance artist, philanthropist, writer, and filmmaker. Her work explores body art, endurance art and feminist art, the relationship between the performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind.
 Being active for over four decades, Abramović refers to herself as the “grandmother of performance art”. She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body”.
“Marina Abramović.” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marina_Abramovic. Accessed 13 Feb. 2022.
Featured Image Attribution: Shelby Lessig, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Her early work was a collaboration with Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen):
GLENN LOWRY: In her earlier performance, Rhythm 0, Abramović surrendered complete control to her audience as she stood impassively, next to a table with objects that they could use on her as they desired. She revisited this vulnerable state in Rest Energy, a collaboration with her long time partner, Ulay.
The bittersweet story of Marina Abramović’s epic walk on the Great Wall of China:
From the moment in 1976 that Serbian and German performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen, who died last month aged 76) clapped eyes on each other they were inseparable. Ulay found Abramović witchy and otherworldly; she found him wild and exciting.
Marina Abramović discusses the powerful Rhythm 0 performance in her Ted Talk.
Marina Abramović’s art pushes the boundary between audience and artist in pursuit of heightened consciousness and personal change. In her groundbreaking 2010…
To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force that would act on her. Abramović placed on a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use in any way that they chose; a sign informed them that they held no responsibility for any of their actions. Some of the objects could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed audience members to manipulate her body and actions without consequences. This tested how vulnerable and aggressive human subjects could be when actions have no social consequences.
At first the audience did not do much and was extremely passive. However, as the realization began to set in that there was no limit to their actions, the piece became brutal. By the end of the performance, her body was stripped, attacked, and devalued into an image that Abramović described as the “Madonna, mother, and whore.” Additionally, markings of aggression were written on the artist’s body. There were cuts on her neck made by audience members, and her clothes were cut off her body. With an initial determination to find out how the public acts with no consequences tied to their actions, she realized by the end that the public might very well have killed her for their own personal enjoyment.
In her works, Abramović affirms her identity through the perspective of others, however, more importantly by changing the roles of each player, the identity and nature of humanity at large is unraveled and showcased. By doing so, the individual experience morphs into a collective one and creates a powerful message. Abramović’s art also represents the objectification of the female body, as she remains motionless and allows spectators to do as they please with her body; the audience pushes the limits of what one would consider acceptable. By presenting her body as an object, she explores the elements of danger and physical exhaustion.
Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained passive) people began to act more aggressively. As Abramović described it later: “What I learned was that … if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you. … I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.”
Film Trailer for the 2012 documentary, “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present“:
Marina Abramovic Made Me Cry: Portraits taken during the MoMA’s exhibit of performance artist “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”.
Photographs by Marco Anelli. From the book: PORTRAITS IN THE PRESENCE OF MARINA ABRAMOVIC (Marco Anelli © 2010) http://www.marcoanelli.com/portraitsbook_e.html Portraits taken during the MoMA’s…