Marina Abramovic on performing “Rhythm 0” (1974)

Marina Abramović  born November 30, 1946) is a Yugoslavia-born performance artist.Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Active for over four decades, Abramović has been described as the “grandmother of performance art.” She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body.

Early life, education and teaching

Abramović was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on November 30, 1946. Her great-uncle was Varnava, Serbian Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Both of her parents were Yugoslav Partisans[4] during the Second World War. Her mother was Danica Rosić and her father was Vojin Abramović..After the war, Abramović’s parents were “national heroes” and were given positions in the post-war Yugoslavian government. In an interview, Abramović described her family as having been “Red bourgeoisie.”.

Until she was six years old, Abramović was raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother was deeply religious and Abramović “spent my childhood in a church following my grandmother’s rituals – candles in the morning, the priest coming for different occasions.”[6] At age six, when Abramović’s brother was born, she began living with her parents and took piano, French, and English lessons. While she did not take art lessons, she took an early interest in art and enjoyed painting as a child.

As a child, Abramović’s mother beat her.. In an interview published in 1998, Abramović described how her “mother took complete military-style control of me and my brother. I was not allowed to leave the house after 10 o’clock at night till I was 29 years old. … [A]ll the performances in Yugoslavia I did before 10 o’clock in the evening because I had to be home then. It’s completely insane, but all of my cutting myself, whipping myself, burning myself, almost losing my life in the firestar, everything was done before 10 in the evening.”.

In an interview published in 2013, Abramović said, “My mother and father had a terrible marriage.”[8] Describing an incident when her father smashed 12 champagne glasses and left the house, she said, “It was the most horrible moment of my childhood.”[8]

She was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade from 1965 to 1970. She completed her post-graduate studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, SR Croatia in 1972. From 1973 to 1975, she taught at the Academy of Fine Arts at Novi Sad, while implementing her first solo performances.

From 1971 to 1976, she was married to Neša Paripović. In 1976, she went to Amsterdam to perform a piece (later claiming on the day of her birthday) then decided to move there permanently.

From 1990–1991 Abramović was a visiting professor at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and at the Berlin University of the Arts. From 1992–1996 she was a visiting professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and from 1997–2004 she was a professor for performance-art at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Braunschweig.Her best known students are Sebastian Bieniek. and Chiharu Shiota..

Rhythm 0, 1974

To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her. Abramović placed on a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions. This tested how vulnerable and aggressive the human subject could be when hidden from social consequences.[2] By the end of the performance, her body was stripped, attacked, and devalued into an image that Abramović described as the “Madonna, mother, and whore.”[2] Additionally, markings of aggression were apparent on the artist’s body. There were cuts on her neck made by audience members, and her clothes were cut off her body.

In her works, Abramović affirms her identity through the perspective of others, however, more importantly by changing the roles of each player, the identity and nature of humanity at large is unraveled and showcased. By doing so, the individual experience morphs into a collective one and creates a powerful message.[2] Abramović’s art also represents the objectification of the female body, as she remains motionless and allows the spectators to do as they please with her body, pushing the limits of what one would consider acceptable. This type of representation also reflects key political issues such as BDSM, which complicates and questions the relation between art versus sexuality and public discourse.

Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained passive) people began to act more aggressively. As Abramović described it later: “What I learned was that … if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you. … I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.




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