heARTbeat: Marina Abramović an Artist Is Present

Column“Life is a dream, and death is waking up.” – Marina Abramović

Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović made international headlines last year with her career retrospective shown at New York’s MoMA, The Artist Is Present, in which she sat for 700 hours, staring at visitors.  The months long project was seen by as many as 750,000 people.

Abramović, as described by Guy Treybay in The New York Times:

 …has restaged the New York retrospective, at twice its original scale, at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow; has collaborated with Robert Wilson on a biographical spectacle entitled “The Life and Death of Marina Abramović ,” and was the subject of biographical films produced by HBO and PBS. She guest edited and appeared on the cover of the English style journal Pop (she had already been featured in Elle), became a viral Web phenomenon when slide shows of portraits taken during her MoMA retrospective went online, and found time to serve as an unofficial “muse” to her friend Riccardo Tisci, the Givenchy designer. The last fact probably makes her the first performance artist in history to wear haute couture.

Last month she unveiled plans for a new art and education center she is building in Hudson, N.Y.  The Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art will be designed by rockstar architects Shohei Shigematsu and Rem Koolhaas, and housed in a former theater.

For a 65-year-old woman whose oeuvre was once an obscure and conceptual art form with a limited audience, Abramović has flown to new heights in the world of culture. Her brand of art has crossed disciplines, genders and boundaries. Perhaps not what one would envision for a provocateur whose mother once burned her work:

The artist explains:

I always sent my mother all these huge books I made. When my mother died, I was cleaning her cupboard, and these big books were only 20 pages long. She edited out, maybe burned, every single photograph where I’m naked.

It is indeed these polarities that contribute to making Abramović a person of interest. When asked about a breast enlargement, which some found to be anathema to the feminist tradition of performance art, she answered:

Why not use technology if you can, if it can build your spirit? And I’m not feminist, by the way. I am just an artist.

This coming from an artist who is quoted as saying:

The hardest thing is to do something close to nothing. 

Inspired by EcoSalon Editor-in-Chief, Amy DuFault

Check MoMA’s Flickr page for hundreds of performances by visitors to The Artist is Present.

Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her trends blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.


Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.