The Yugoslav has made headlines of late, not all of them positive. An unedited extract from her forthcoming memoir was leaked, in which she described Australia's Aborigines as "not just the oldest race in Australia; they are the oldest race on the planet. They look like dinosaurs...to Western eyes they look terrible. Their faces are like no other faces on earth." She also recently told German newspaper Taggespiegel that she had had three abortions, because she felt having children would be disastrous to her art. “One only has limited energy in the body, and I would have had to divide it,” Abramović said. “In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children – a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.”
Hmm. Well - there's never a dull moment with this adoptive New Yorker. She began her career in the 70’s crafting a language for performance art that focused on endurance. She sought to question the limits of her own body, and its use as an artistic tool. In 1974 in her native Belgrade she invited visitors to do whatever they wanted to do to her, using a collection of 74 objects that included feather boas, knives, and a loaded pistol. The result was bloody but not fatal. The following year a nude Abramović slowly drank a bottle of red wine, carved a five point communist star into her abdomen with razor blades, and violently whipped herself to then lay for 30 minutes on a cross made of ice.
In 2010, NYC's MoMA held a major retrospective of her work The Artist is Present. During the run a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum's atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite. Two years ago, the artist came to the Serpentine Gallery, Conducting her first ‘durational’ performance in London, 512 hours, where she will hold the fort for 64 days at the Serpentine Gallery. More authority is given to the visitor, blurring the lines between performer, audience and participant. In a strange paradox this move towards ‘nothingness’ is her most extreme leap ever: “ I could not do anything more radical than I am doing now.”
Despite their sensationalism, these acts did not defy purpose. But whether it was to stab at cold war communism or to poeticise vulnerability and self-sacrifice, it was in Abramović’s execution of these performances that she harnessed a unique charisma. Whether through calculated balance, honest emotion, or emblazoned passion and determination, her spiritualistic approach to performance continues to set her apart.
|What||Marina Abramović talk, Southbank Centre|
|Where||Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
On 07 Nov 16, Times TBC
|Website||Click here to book|