MONO.KULTUR, #35, Marina Abramovic

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Marina Abramović has been making performance art for 40 years. Born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1946, her early work in the 1970s included dangerous and violent acts; she raised the stakes between artist and audience by offering her own body as a canvas for revelations about human nature, challenging the audience as voyeurs of and participants in her suffering.

Exploring the relationship between performer and audience, the immaterial nature of energy and the possibilities and restrictions of body and mind, these works were set in opposition to the apparent pretense of theater and the commerciality of saleable art objects. Unlike theater, in performance art ‘the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real,’ she said. In 1976, Abramović met and fell in love with West German performance artist Uwe Laysiepen. The pair collaborated until 1988 and produced several defining pieces of performance art, working so closely that they likened themselves to a two-headed body. Dedicated creative collaboration defined their relationship, which ended in 1988 with a final performance in which Abramović and Ulay set out from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, walking a distance of 2,500 km to meet in the middle and say goodbye.

In 2010, Abramović’s work was reconfigured into a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It was the biggest performance exhibition in the museum’s history and broke all attendance records, attracting more than 850,000 visitors. In recent years, Abramović has extended her practice to collaborations in different creative fields, from appearances in music videos to creating a new ballet version of Boléro. Revising her rejection of scripted theater, Abramović has also invited several directors to create biographical pieces for the stage based on her life and work, culminating in the most recent collaboration with Robert Wilson and Willem Dafoe, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović.

Based in New York City, Abramović is currently working on the creation of the Marina Abramović Institute, dedicated to the presentation and preservation of long-durational and immaterial work. The Institute is due to open in 2015 in the city of Hudson, New York.