A brief introduction to Marina Abramovic

The Artist is Present (2010, Museum of Modern Art)

I came across this TEDtalk, one given by Marina Abramović. I’ve been fascinated by her work for a while now, but never seem to fully deepen in her intentions and underlying ideas. Until now, although on a small scale. This is just a brief introducing to Marina Abramović. 

Welcome to the performance world. First of all, let’s explain what the performance is. So many artists, so many explanations. But mine is very simple. Performance is a mental and physical construction, that the performer makes in a specific time in the space in front of an audience. And then an energy dialogue happens. The audience and the performer make the piece together. The difference between performance and theatre is huge. In the theatre the knife is not a knife and the blood is just ketchup. In the performance the blood is the material and the knife is the tool. It’s all about being there in the real time, you can’t rehearse a performance.” 

These are the words of Marina Abramovic. On the 22nd of December she held her first TEDtalk. She started with explaining a performance, Rhythm 0, which she made when she was 23 years old. She placed herself in the middle of a room, introducing herself as an object. In front of her was a table, filled with all kinds of things (a rose, glass of water, knives, a pistol). The first time I came across this performance I was shocked. Shocked how human beings could be so cruel. 


Rhythm 0 (1974)

As she says, performance isn’t comparable with a 2D piece of art. When it’s made it exists. A performance is made and disappears when it’s done. This is something which fascinates me a lot. There’s this different distance between the spectator and the work. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, it’s can be documented through all kinds of mediums, but it isn’t the same. You’ll miss the whole experience, the whole vibe which fills the room.

The Artist is Present

The performance which made her known to the public is The Artist is Present in MoMa. She sat for eight hours a day, three months long. People were lining up to sit a few minutes in front of Marina. There’s nowhere to go, nowhere to look, except straight ahead, so they turn into themselves. They get confronted with their deeper self. 

This enormous need of the humans to actually have contact. How we are so allienated from each other, how the society makes us really distant. We are texting each other messages without seeing each other. And we just live around the corner from each other. So many stories of loneliness.”

The reason for her TEDtalk is her new project, on which she explains more comprehensively than what I’ll say here. It’s an institute where she wants people to connect with themselves more. People are keeping themselves isolated. We are constantly busy living our stressful lives we forget to enjoy the little things. This is something where I follow Marina completely. People need to look around more, they need to enjoy everything more, not just through a screen. 

The idea of an institute where you enter and become equals with other visitors. You hand over every technological devices and put on a labcoat. You enter several rooms where slowing down is the key, listening to the emptiness, staring at strangers, concentration, communication, … Connection with yourself and others. I am looking forward to one of these opening in Europe!

Marina Abramovic Institute



This was originally published on Our Pursuit of Art




F O L L O W   E M I T T R A   O N




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