Marina Abramović is a huge celebrity in the art world and she’s everywhere these days; bringing performance art to the mainstream at MoMA in 2010, her Moscow retrospective in 2011, biography/play in England entitled The Life and Death of Marina Abramović starring William Defoe, and now the HBO documentary, which premiered at Sundance this year. I had the chance to revisit my experience of The Artist is Present in person at MoMA (2010) by attending Film Forum tonight alongside a Q&A with filmmaker Matthew Akers. This behind-the-scenes documentary reopened so many memories, ideas, and the intense passion I initially felt seeing her show a few years back. I also had the privilege of seeing the film with fellow artist friend Jasmina Tomic, whose Dad went to school with Marina back in Serbia and had so many awesome stories to share over drinks afterward. A M A Z I N G. I highly recommend seeing this in the theater! Chills ran through my body for all 105 minutes of the film, while I secretly texted myself reminder quotes like “artist has to be warrior!” Watch the trailer by clicking on the movie poster below:
I have written and deleted countless posts on Marina Abramović in the past, partly because she viscerally moves me right to the gut; thoughts feverishly racing and emotions far too complex to articulate properly into words. She both inspires and scares the sh*t out of me. I could never know enough about her, but I can tell you that she makes me look deep into myself as an artist, continually challenging me to dig even further. After seeing her in person a few years back, I knew my life was never going to be the same again.
Marina Abramović’s art explores the limits of physical and mental endurance. She has eaten an entire raw onion, outer skin and all. She’s filmed herself aggressively brushing her hair repeatedly saying “art must be beautiful; the artist must be beautiful”. She screams for 45 minutes straight until she loses her voice. She has a standoff in Rest Energy at bow and arrow point to which she could reasonably die if her partner, Ulay, slips or lets go [watch the performance piece here]. Smacking, pushing, pulling, scrubbing and swimming in bloody animal carcasses, laying with a skeleton on top of her naked body, inhaling/exhaling giving life to the weight death. In Rhythm 0, she invited her audience to use a variety of objects to interact with her in; feathers, make-up and weapons as dangerous as loaded pistols and sharpened knives.
Marina Abramović is willing to suffer any length for her art; how much was I willing to suffer for mine? I lived most of my life in fear, deep from the emotional core right down to the petty fear of a Brooklyn waterbug. Here is this artist, pushing herself to what seemed like impossible limits, and I can’t handle a bug phobia? As I walked around and absorbed each piece in The Artist is Present exhibition, tears streamed down my face as if I was eating the raw onion myself. Eat the fear, I heard myself saying. Eat. It. Up.
One of the translations repeated during the onion video was “I want to not want anymore.” I wrote it on my hand and clasped my partner’s hand until our fingers went numb (photo below)
Recently I fell in love with a piece at MoMA’s Print/Out exhibit entitled Spirit Cooking, written by Marina Abramović and produced by Jacob Samuel. After decades of permanence art, Abramović has very little printmaking experience, so it was interesting to me (as someone who works heavily in print) to see what she came up with. “The artist chose to make a cookbook, writing a series of “aphrodisiac recipes” that serve as evocative instructions for actions or thoughts. To allow the artist to create the accompanying etchings in a manner consistent with her body-oriented practice, Samuel prepared the plates with soft ground so she could scratch directly onto the surface with her fingernails and encouraged her to work with spitbite, using her own saliva with nitric acid to paint on the plate.”
Through this inspiration, I decided to create my own Spirit Cooking and what it personally means to me and my art. Watch the video here:
Final note to self: stay for long periods of time at exploding volcanoes. Eat your fears by the spoonful. Be a warrior. Live life. Make good art! I’ll leave you now with this comic here:
The Artist is Present: sitting with Marina Abramović (page 1):
all images are © René Habermacher, MoMA, Jacob Samuel, Marina Abramović / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn; except for clasping hand photo & above art-video & comic illustration © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow)