Known for her intriguing, controversial, and provocative performance arts, Marina Abramović is definitely a living legend in the industry. Her thought-provoking and extraordinary outlook on what “art” is, will leave you in awe and wonder at just how much meaning there is to a short yet complex three-letter word. She does not play it safe. Her works are not just eye-openers but also manifestations of her own capabilities as an artist.
One of the most well-known performances she has done is Rhythm 0 in 1974. Abramović “tested the limits of the relationship between performer and audience” by allowing the latter to do whatever they want to the artist using certain objects that have been placed on a table. The collection of objects consisted of pieces in which could either inflict pain or pleasure to her. And so the audience went on to do what was expected of them. At first people were reluctant to act out, but as time progressed, they started to behave more violently. She was stripped naked and constantly harmed, there was even a point wherein someone pointed a loaded gun to her head. As the performance came to an end, Abramović stood up and approached the audience but no one wanted to confront her.
In 1976, she met fellow performance artist Uwe Laysiepen, or Ulay as everybody called him, and fell in love. The two went on to execute more captivating performances together. Their pieces often dealt with the idea of relationships. In Breathing In/Breathing Out, the two connected their mouths, inhaling and exhaling each other’s breaths, but due to the excessive intake of carbon dioxide, they fell unconscious after a short while. This piece explored how one can take in someone else’s whole being and vice versa for a moment in time which then can lead to destruction. Although, Abramović and Ulay’s relationship wasn’t always faultless. After more than a decade, the two decided to part ways in the most beautiful and heartfelt way possible. Starting on both ends, they walked the Great Wall of China and met in the middle to say their final good-byes.
A personal favorite performance art she has done is her 2010 New York MoMA exhibit The Artist is Present, in which people are invited to sit across from Abramović and solely stare at her for as long as they please. Looking at it as a big picture, it seems to be a very easy and simple idea, not much like her previous performances throughout the years, but up close it is beyond what you can imagine and frankly the best work she has ever done so far. Her exhibit lasted for three months (March-May) daily and went on from the opening until the closing of the museum.
In a 2012 documentary about The Artist is Present, you can see how several people reacted to experiencing her performance. Some were calm and composed and some got a little out of hand. There is even a Tumblr blog dedicated to those who got a little teary-eyed during their time with the artist. Also, Ulay was there.
It’s truly amazing how much emotion people have felt and conveyed just by staring at an artist’s nearly nonchalant expression. As if by looking at a blank face, you are left with all of your own thoughts to ponder and reflect on. You start to feel all these feelings you have been avoiding or distracting yourself from and soon you’ll come to realise that you’re not as happy as you think you are. “I’m just the mirror of their own self”, Abramović says.
The exhibit also featured re-enacted performances of her old works by younger volunteer artists as well as other memorabilia that have been significant to her career (i.e. the van in which she and Ulay lived in).
For several years, she has gone to such extremes and tested the limits of her physical and mental state in the name of art. What she does may not be pleasing or understandable to you or to many, but you have to give such a vast amount of respect to Marina Abramović for being brave enough to push and to defy the laws of art. That is, if there is any.
Read more about Marina Abramović on Artsy.
- Reign Gonzales
all photo stills are taken from Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present (2012)
''Gradually it dawned on me that I was painting my own inner emotions. Those children were asking: 'Why are we here? What is life all about? Why is there sadness and injustice?' All those deep questions. Those children were sad because they didn't have the answers. They were searching.’’
- Margaret Keane
Quirky yet haunting; this is what I think of when Margaret Keane’s works are mentioned. I’m convinced that those big round eyes can capture your deepest darkest secrets if you stare long enough. That’s why they look so glassy and teary-eyed, as if the children can empathise with your feelings. Her works are interesting to say the least, but how she came about in the art scene and how she managed to make a name for herself is what’s most fascinating to me. Her paintings are quite captivating of course, but for a time, no one knew she was behind all those masterpieces.
It was in the late 50’s and early 60’s when Keane’s paintings started the so-called big eyes revolution. Everyone was in on the hype as various merchandises featuring the artworks were sold. Though she wasn’t quite commended for her talent since her husband at the time, Walter Keane, claimed those artworks as his own for more than a decade. Showcasing “his” works in a number of galleries certainly created an empire out of this whole scheme and left Margaret behind his shadow. Walter was even considered as one of the wealthiest and most intriguing painters at that time, having “his” works displayed in collections as well as owned by famous personalities.
Come 1970, after five years of separation from Walter and several years of living in silence, Margaret Keane finally spoke up and told the public about the truth behind the big eyes paintings. As expected, Walter denied allegations of him committing such crime while in court for slander. This led to a paint-off between the two. Walter claimed to have a shoulder injury and refused to paint, but in under an hour, Margaret had produced “Exhibit 224”, probably the most triumphant and important artwork she has ever made. So Walter was sued and she was rewarded $4 million in damages.
Currently in her late 80’s, Margaret still continues to paint and has recently inspired a brand new Tim Burton film entitled Big Eyes which will be out this late November. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz will be playing the Keane couple alongside other great actors such as Jason Schwartzman and Krysten Ritter.
Watch the trailer: