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.
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)