Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A few questions with Marina Abramovic

Posted By on Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 10:41 AM

  • MARINA ABRAMOVIC Golden Mask, 2009 framed chromogenic print Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York.
Yugoslavian performance artist Marina Abramovic has taken to calling herself “the grandmother of performance art.” The 63-year-old’s career spans back to the early ‘70s, including an early performance that provided objects (including a feather, grapes, knife, whip, and gun) on a table and allowed the audience to use the objects on the artist as they saw fit. That physically-demanding, line-blurring engagement with her audience has continued throughout her celebrated career, culminating in The Artist is Present, her recent attendance-record-breaking retrospective at MoMA, where the audience was invited to sit in mutual silence with the artist for the entire duration of the exhibit. To cope with the extraordinary physical demands on her body for The Artist is Present, she adopted a diet and sleep regimen developed for NASA astronauts. She’ll be speaking about her career and work at SCAD on Thurs., Feb. 24 at 7 pm as part of the deFINE ART festival.

So much has been published about the arduous physical preparations and requirements leading up to and during your performances. What happens after you are finished? Does it take a period of time to recover? This fall, for example, were you able to set aside the rigorous sleeping and eating schedule that you had adopted for the MoMA show?

Yes, for every performance I need to go through rigorous preparation and create discipline and generate the willpower to go through with the task. After the performance is finished I have to go slowly into everyday life and most of the time it's a painful experience. The body really rebels and hurts. After MoMA I took one month of complete rest.

Do you feel like The Artist is Present tested the limits of your endurance? Can you imagine mounting another work of that duration again?

At the moment, I don't have the wish to make similar work. Between each performance I do I take at least two years in between to recover. For me performance is not entertainment. It's serious business.

Ayna Liftig, the young artist who sat dressed as you for a day at The Artist is Present, studied here in Atlanta and will be mounting a large, public performance here in later this year. What do you think of her engagement with your work?

The concept of my work was very simple: to address the audience to come and sit silently with me for a limitless time. She went further than that and created her own work which was not part of my concept.

How has your relationship to your body changed over the years? To other bodies?

I use my body as a tool to create works of art. The same like a painter uses a brush or a sculptor a chisel. Nothing more nothing less. The body is a micro-universe and there are so many things to discover. My relationship with my body is constantly changing.

What can you tell us about your upcoming collaboration with Antony, Willem Dafoe, and Robert Wilson, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic?

The only theater piece I have done is the theater of my own life. Since 1989 I asked different theater directors to stage my life and every five or six years to have a new version as my life develops. I am especially excited about working with Bob Wilson, Antony, and Willem Dafoe because it's an incredible combination of minds. I am so much looking forward to the premiere on the 9th of July in Manchester.

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