The performance art legend Marina Abramović turns 77 today (30 November), and there’s a lot to celebrate! With her history-making Royal Academy retrospective opening two months ago, and her iconic works The Hero & Miracle 3 standing proud in Moco Museum Amsterdam and Barcelona respectively, we’re pausing to reflect on just what makes a female leader in the contemporary art world.
Outside (the feminist) box
There’s no doubt that Abramović’s work strongly inspires and celebrates women, but she’s reluctant to be simply boxed in as a feminist artist. At MoMA’s The Feminist is Future symposium, she frankly stated: “I am not a feminist artist. I am woman, but I am not the woman artist, I am just an artist.”
Dismissing the feminist category, Abramović instead trusts in the quality of the art itself to reach and inspire other women. In her 2010 performance art masterpiece, The Artist is Present, over 1000 participants took their turn to sit across from Abramović and lock eyes with the legend. Many were moved to tears. One female writer was so inspired she channelled the raw emotion and vulnerability in Abramović’s eyes through the form of a novel, The Museum of Modern Love.
Making Performance Art History
Abramović’s chosen medium is unique in its capacity to move and inspire. Performance art allows an energy exchange so that, in Abramović’s words, “the audience and the performer make the piece together.” Abramović has gone to sometimes extreme lengths to take this co-creative interaction to new heights.
In her 1974 performance Rhythm 0, the young artist allowed audience members to choose from an array of objects – such as a gun, a bullet and a feather – to inflict pain or pleasure on her naked body as they pleased. Rhythm 5 of the same year involved Abramović lying amongst flames until she lost consciousness. By making the body both subject and medium, Abramović pushed the limits of artistic form.
The current exhibition at the Royal Academy in London recreates the most defining pieces of the artist’s career. In this proud retrospective, Abramović classics are performed by graduates from the Marina Abramović Institute, where performance art is preserved and its place in art history established. Abramović makes history like it’s nothing: this exhibition makes her the first woman with a solo exhibition in the Royal Academy’s main galleries. From the Royal Academy to the exhibition rooms of Moco, her disruptive, history-shaping impact is inspiring new waves of visitors to question the boundaries of art.
Come and discover the enduring work of Abramović at Moco Museum Amsterdam and Barcelona!