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Marina Abramović Photo

Marina Abramović

Serbian-American Artist

Movements and Styles: Performance Art, Feminist Art

Born: November 30, 1946 - Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Marina Abramović Timeline

Important Art by Marina Abramović

The below artworks are the most important by Marina Abramović - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Rhythm 10 (1973)
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Rhythm 10 (1973)

Artwork description & Analysis: Abramović's first forays into performance focused primarily on sound installations, but she increasingly incorporated her body - often harming it in the process. In Rhythm 10, she used a series of 20 knives to quickly stab at the spaces between her outstretched fingers. Every time she pierced her skin, she selected another knife from those carefully laid out in front of her. Halfway through, she began playing a recording of the first half of the hour-long performance, using the rhythmic beat of the knives striking the floor, and her hand, to repeat the same movements, cutting herself at the same time. She has said that this work marked the first time she understood that drawing on the audience's energy drove her performance; this became an important concept informing much of her later work.

20 knives, tape recorder

Rhythm 5 (1974)
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Rhythm 5 (1974)

Artwork description & Analysis: Viewing both life and performance art as reaching beyond the realm of awareness, Abramović has created performances in which she sleeps or becomes drugged into unconsciousness to examine this crucial aspect of life. In Rhythm 5, she created a star shape with wood shavings covered in gasoline and lit the wood on fire. After cutting her nails and hair and dropping them into the fire, she lay down within the burning star, a symbol both of the occult and of Communism in Yugoslavia. When audience members realized her clothes were on fire and she had lost consciousness due to the lack of oxygen amidst the flames, they pulled her out, ending the performance. After performing Rhythm 5, she said she "realized the subject of my work should be the limits of the body. I would use performance to push my mental and physical limits beyond consciousness."

Wood shavings, gasoline, fire

Rhythm 0 (1974)
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Rhythm 0 (1974)

Artwork description & Analysis: With a description reading "I am the object," and, "During this period I take full responsibility," Abramović invited spectators to use any of 72 objects on her body in any way they desired, completely giving up control. Rhythm 0 was exemplary of Abramović's belief that confronting physical pain and exhaustion was important in making a person completely present and aware of his or her self. This work also reflected her interest in performance art as a way to transform both the performer and the audience. She wanted spectators to become collaborators, rather than passive observers. Here, they physically directed the actions, while in other performances, Abramović involved the audience through a dynamic exchange of energy. In Rhythm 0, the audience divided itself into those who sought to harm Abramović (holding the loaded gun to her head) and those who tried to protect her (wiping away her tears). Ultimately, after she stood motionless for six hours, the protective audience members insisted the performance be stopped, seeing that others were becoming increasingly violent.

72 objects including a feather, pen, book, saw, honey, band-aid, salt, rose, gun, bullet, paint, whip, coat and scissors

Rest Energy (1980)
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Rest Energy (1980)

Artwork description & Analysis: Rest Energy was only four minutes and 10 seconds long, but it was a highly intense piece that revealed the fragility of the line between life and death. Abramović and Ulay faced each other, aiming an arrow on a tense bow, just inches from her heart. They placed small microphones on their chests to make audible their increasingly rapid heartbeats in response to the growing danger. This work was one of their many performances that depended on a close relationship and trust. Many of their works also often involved elements of extreme duration, a characteristic that Abramović continued after she and Ulay stopped working together.

Bow and arrow

Balkan Baroque (1997)
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Balkan Baroque (1997)

Artwork description & Analysis: Reminiscent of Cleaning the Mirror #1 (1995), in which she sat on a stool for three hours washing a skeleton, Abramović created Balkan Baroque in response to the innumerable deaths that had taken place in the former Yugoslavia. Sitting on top of 1,500 cow bones in a white dress, she spent four days, six hours a day, washing each of these bloody bones, surrounded by projected images of her parents and herself. The accompanying sound included her recorded description of methods used in the Balkans for killing rats and her singing of her native folksongs. The performance progression was made visceral due to the unbearable heat of the basement room and fetid smell. For Abramović, it was not enough to simply recount the number of people lost in modern-day war. Instead, she aimed to remember the lives, efforts and hopes of individuals killed by carefully touching and cleaning "their" physical bones and blood. Transforming her individual performative experiences into universal ideas was also an important concept for Abramović throughout all her work. The comparison between the inability to scrub away all the blood and the inability to erase the shame of war is a concept she viewed as having universal reach.

Projections, cow bones, copper sinks and tub filled with black water, bucket, soap, metal brush, white dress

The House with the Ocean View (2002)
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The House with the Ocean View (2002)

Artwork description & Analysis: In The House with the Ocean View, Abramović spent twelve days in the Sean Kelly Gallery without eating, writing or speaking. Contained within three 'rooms' built six feet off the ground, Abramović slept, drank water, urinated, showered and gazed at the viewers wearing a differently colored outfit each day. She could walk between the three rooms, but the ladders leading to the floor had rungs made of butcher knives. Set to the sound of a metronome, Abramović ritualized the activities of daily life, focusing on the self and simplicity while eliminating all aspects of narrative and dialogue. She saw this piece as an act of purification - not just for herself, but also for any viewer who entered the space. This piece was a shift from the masochism of her earlier works to performances that focus more on ideas of presence and shared energy, although there is still the element of danger present in the butcher knife ladder. In addition, it was an extension of the challenging durational works that have long been a significant aspect of Abramović's career.

Sink, bed, chair with mineral pillow, table, toilet, shower, pants and shirts in different colors, white towels, metal bucket, metronome, bar of natural soap, bottle of rose water, bottle of pure almond oil, ladder of wood and butcher knives



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Marina Abramović Photo

Related Art and Artists

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965)
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How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965)

Artist: Joseph Beuys

Artwork description & Analysis: In this performance piece, Beuys could be viewed - his head and face covered in honey and gold leaf - through a gallery's windows, a slab of iron tied to one boot, a felt pad to the other, as the artist cradled a dead hare. As though carrying out a strange music (if not some macabre bedtime story), Beuys frequently whispered things to the animal carcass about his own drawings hanging on the walls around him. Beuys would periodically vary the bleak rhythm of this scenario by walking around the cramped space, one footstep muffled by the felt, the other amplified by the iron. Every item in the room - a wilting fir tree, the honey, the felt, and the fifty-dollars-worth of gold leaf - was chosen specifically for both its symbolic potential as well as its literal significance: honey for life, gold for wealth, hare as death, metal as conductor of invisible energies, felt as protection, and so forth. As for most of his subsequent installations and performance work, Beuys had created a new visual syntax not only for himself, but for all conceptual art that might follow him.

Gold leaf, honey, dead hare, felt pad, iron, fir tree, miscellaneous drawings and clothing items - Galerie Schmela, Dresden, Germany

Clown Torture (1987)
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Clown Torture (1987)

Artist: Bruce Nauman

Artwork description & Analysis: Video was absent from Nauman's work from 1973 until 1985, and this was one of the most significant pieces he made upon his return to the medium. Installed in an enclosed room, it consists of videotapes projected directly onto the two sidewalls and two pairs of stacked monitors on pedestals. Five sequences - Clown Taking a Shit; Pete and Repeat; No, No, No, No; Clown with Goldfish Bowl; and Clown with Water Bucket - play over each other repeatedly. This visual and auditory attack on the viewer is both disarming and nearly unbearable, and features some of Nauman's primary themes: surveillance, physical stress, interrogation, repetition, and word games. Nauman takes clowning to an entirely different level, highlighting the hidden horror in children's play.

Installation: two 20-in. color monitors, two 25-in color monitors, four speakers, two video projectors, four videotapes (color, sound) - Lannan Foundation, Los Angeles

Shoot (1971)
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Shoot (1971)

Artist: Chris Burden

Artwork description & Analysis: Shoot is the piece for which Burden is infamously known. He asked a friend to shoot him with a .22 rifle from a distance of 15 feet. The bullet was originally supposed to nick the side of Burden's arm, but the shooter was slightly off target and the bullet went through the arm instead. This piece presented exactly what happens when a person is shot so that the audience could experience it in person, and not just in a detached setting such as watching the television while sitting comfortably on the couch. The viewer can only recoil in shock at realizing that an actual person was just shot in front of them. In describing the piece, Burden stated that "it was really disgusting, and there was a smoking hole in my arm." This work also poses questions about the nature of power and following orders, a theme especially indicated by the imperative of the title Shoot, itself. To what extent are we required to follow orders? What are the boundaries between rules and responsibility to fellow human beings? Burden's work was also a way of re-sensitizing people to the violence that had become less and less shocking due to its prevalence in the news. Finally, in addition to challenging the art world's traditional preference for the "fine art" of painting, for example, what Burden really seemed to be challenging was himself and his own dedication to his art. One cannot argue that someone who so consistently put himself in physical and mortal danger for his work was not completely dedicated to his art: in fact, Burden said that one of the reasons he performed Shoot was so that he would be taken seriously as an artist.

.22 rifle and bullet - N/A

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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