Monday, March 15, 2010


Exactly at 5:00 p.m., Abramovic appeared on the stage nude, then sat down on a chair for a while, and switched on a metronome. We can only hear the sound of the metronome, tick-tock, echoing slowly into space. Ten minutes later, Abramovic opened a one-liter bottle of honey, which she started to eat slowly by putting a spoon in and out of the bottle. Her licking the spoon many times was especially sexual.

After eating honey for approximately ten minutes, the artist opened a wine bottle, and drank it slowly while staring in the direction of a spectator. Then, she picked up a razor on the table, and cut her stomach slowly and carefully, by tracing the outline of a star that was already written on her stomach. Meanwhile, a sound of a metronome counts the passing time slowly.

Blood dripped from her stomach slowly. Abramovic wore old combat boots placed on the stage, after having wiped up the blood with a white napkin, and put on an army cap, and picked up a stick. A red star was placed on this army cap, and the stick which curved slightly gave me an impression that the stick was like a Kalashnikov gun. (Abramovic herself told me that the shoes and the stick were originally used for the performance “The Lovers - Great Wall Walk” in 1988, and after the performance, the length of the stick shortened 15cm. The cap is from her mother which she wore during the Serbs’ partisan war against Nazi Germany.)

After Abramovic stood rigidly for a while, a Russian song sung by a female voice was played from a speaker. The song was a quite sad folk song that sang about history of Slavic tragedy.

The surprising thing is that as soon as this song was played, Abramovic started to weep very bitterly. The situation of a nude woman bleeding from the abdomen crying on the stage, was quite bizarre.

After the song had finished, Abramovic took off her shoes, and lay on an ice bed, arranged in the shape of a cross. After five minutes on the ice bed, she began whipping her body, silently.

Basically, Abramovic repeated this performance for seven hours. Approximately three hours into the performance, after wiping the blood from the star-shaped cut, she opened the white handkerchief. Then, we could realize that this handkerchief has lines as on a flag, and she tied this line to the edge of the stick. When the Russian song was played, Abramovic lifted a stick, and waved the white handkerchief which is dyed by blood. Did she "surrender" to anything? In this point, Abramovic was not crying anymore, but even had a slight smile.

Around 11 p.m., Abramovic got up from the ice bed, and she began quivering. The quivering persisted. Because her body temperature had decreased, her body kept shaking. I could not look at her anymore. In the original performance in 1975, one of the spectators, who could not look at her anymore, jumped into and terminated a performance; this time, spectators were saying, "Please, please stop," or “You do not have to do it more" again and again. However, Abramovic did not quit the performance.

This is a description of a performance art piece by Marina Abramovic. When I first read about her in the New Yorker, I had my typical Russian, down to earth attitude - "Another crazy person". Yet the more I read, the more I had this niggling feeling inside that some of the ideas in the article about her were quite amazing...

How about when she set up an exhibit where the only entry was through a narrow passageway where she and her lover stood naked on each side and each person walking through the doorway needed to decide which way he or she was going to face?

Or how about when she and her partner decided to split up. They started walking towards one another from the opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, meeting up after months of walking and thousands of miles, to say goodbye...

Which left me in a conundrum - what is the line between artistic and plain nuts? Is there one?


Blogger Nechama said...

I think that "the line between artistic and plain nuts" is blurry at best. It seems that all "great" artists were nuts, albeit many had gone undiagnosed. I sometimes envy people like that because they are disconnected from the mundane issues that plague the world I dwell in; the world of mortgages, summer camp tuition, kids immunizations, shul fundraisers, etc.

March 16, 2010 8:57 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

I'm not really sure what the importance is of turning your love life into an artistic event; but her work definitely sounds interesting.Have you ever seen her live?

March 17, 2010 2:06 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>I'm not really sure what the importance is of turning your love life into an artistic event;

Miri, I don't think this is what is going on. Both she and her husband are performance artists - it feels to me that they do not make a distinction between life and art - they live this way.

I have never seen her - as a matter of fact the first time I heard of her was about a week ago.

March 17, 2010 7:22 PM  

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