BLOG Category: Art Psychology


Become your Inner Superhuman via Art Exercises (and the Help of Marina Abramović)
La joie de vivre: the top 10 list

Become your Inner Superhuman via Art Exercises (and the Help of Marina Abramović)

Part I: The Background

Over the course of her performance art career, Marina Abramović developed a signature method of techniques that would allow her to reach a higher plane of consciousness required for grueling, endurance-based work. She researched various spiritual and cultural realms, oftentimes spending time with people such as the aboriginal tribes of Australia or Chinese Buddhists. Her learning lent Marina a superhuman sensibility that included the ability to sit for hours on end without moving, to conjure laser sharp focus while spending extended periods of time in repetitive action, or to withstand intense self-inflicted pain.

In The Artist is Present, 2013, she employed the culmination of a career’s worth of her method to be able to sit physically present over many days while still intimately connecting with each and every person who came to sit with her. Although she was physically exhausted and mentally depleted by the end of the performance, viewers had no visible hint of her suffering throughout the piece.

Marina coined her practices the Abramović Method, an exploration of being present in both time and space, incorporating exercises that center on breath, motion, stillness and concentration. She has since shared it via workshops with both aspiring artists and non-artists looking to reach a higher plane of existence.

Part II: The Logic of The Method

Photo (c) PanosKokkinias

Abramović has described the steps as follows: For each workshop, I would take between twelve and twenty-five students outdoors, always to a place that was neither too cold nor too hot, never uncomfortable, and, while we fasted for three to five days, drinking only water and herbal teas, and refraining from speaking, we would do various exercises.

Some examples:

  • BLINDFOLD: Leave home and go to the forest, where you are blindfolded, then try to find your way back home. Like a blind person, an artist needs to learn to see with his or her whole body.
  • LONG WALK IN LANDSCAPE: Start walking from a given point, proceeding in a straight line through the landscape for four hours. Rest, then return along the same route.
  • WALKING BACKWARD: Walk backwards for four hours, while holding a mirror in your hand. Observe reality as a reflection.
  • FEELING ENERGY: With your eyes closed, extend your hands in front of you toward another participant. Never touching the other person, move you hands around different areas of their body for one hour, feeling their energy.
  • SLOW-MOTION EXERCISE: For the entire day, do everything very slowly: walking, drinking water, showering. Peeing in slow motion is very difficult, but try.
    Toward Our Center:

Part III: Toward Our Center:
Abramović Discusses Presence and Purpose


Part IV: The Abramović Method in Action

Abramović has held workshops from Athens to Sydney, called Marina Abramović: In Residence where she mentors young artists in an intensive two-week program, which culminates in a group show where the artists use what they learned in the Abramović Method.

 

Here is Abramović describing her method at the Australian workshop:

The Abramović Method and Lady Gaga, (The Method helped Lady Gaga quit smoking):

A Sample Lesson For You:

By creating her signature method and sharing it with the public, Marina has evolved her work as a performance artist into one of a great teacher. She has spent a career using her body as a medium and now she asks others to consider using theirs to become fully present in their own lives and to embrace the empowerment that results both on an individual level and as part of a connected humanity at large.

Through her MAI Institute, Abramović continues to spread these principles through collaborations with artists and cultural organizations and to groups and individuals looking to benefit personally from her knowledge.

Further Info:
More on The Marina Abramović Institute
The life and art of Marina Abramović  (on The Art Story)

La joie de vivre: the top 10 list

The notion of joy in life has inspired philosophers, artists, and other thinkers since antiquity.

According to the nineteenth century French historian Jules Michelet la joie de vivre is a harmonious state, a peaceful existence within nature. In English, “the joy of living” is associated with all those things that make life worthwhile. Here are the best of those joyous depictions:

Joie de Vivre (Antipolis), Pablo Picasso, 1946.

In the year the Cubist Pablo Picasso painted this work, there was not much joy in postwar Europe. The artist himself was holed up in a tiny house on the French Riviera, but his time spent in the nearby museum-turned-studio Chateau Grimaldi spurred his creativity, resulting in a proliferation of works, including his “Joie de Vivre (Antipolis).”

Because his own reality was rather dreary, Picasso used his art to recall the mythical past, painting his lover Francoise Gilot in a dance with the fauns and satyrs, the half-horse, half-men of ancient Greek mythology.

Bonheur de Vivre, Henri Matisse, 1906.

Considered a cornerstone of early modernism, Henri Matisse’s “Bonheur de Vivre” celebrates life the Fauvist way: through brilliant color. The shifting scale of the nude subjects’ pastoral scene begs a closer look and reveals a radical experiment, in which the figures are painted as viewed by each other.

The painting was shocking to the art community for its style and to the general public for its content. Each figure is enjoying its life: nude, in nature, and wildly sensually. In 1908, Matisse said this depiction of hedonistic joy represented his dream for “an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter” – a sentiment that was mocked by Picasso for its bourgeois attitude.

Joie de Vivre, Max Ernst, 1936.

Evoking the Northern Renaissance heritage of detailed foliage imagery, deep shadows, and woodcut-like forms, Max Ernst’s 1936 painting “Joie de Vivre” is titled ironically. A tangle of supersized vegetation dwarfs a statue and a fantastical animal, forming an eerie jungle rather than the expected pleasant and harmonious depiction of nature .

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La Joie de Vivre, Paul Delvaux, 1937.

One of the most provocative Surrealists of his time, who was even ousted by his Belgian contemporaries for painting too dreamily, Paul Delvaux creates a spirit in this work that in not particularly joyful. His uncanny scene is rooted in real images, though the relationship between figures is not easily defined, but obviously complex. The painting evokes a more psychological reflection on life’s joys.

Rythme, Joie de vivre, Robert Delaunay, 1930.

He may not have a household name, but Robert Delaunay is a star of modern art. His work celebrates both form and color, highlighting his dual influences from Cubism and Fauvism. His works were such a singular achievement that they were given their own art historical style, Orphism, and admired by many, including Paul Klee, August Macke, and Franz Marc of Der Blaue Reiter. His vibrant abstract works like this “Rythme, Joie de Vivre” from 1930 show a mix of cool and warm colors in a dynamic geometric arrangement.

Au Temps d’Harmonie (La Joie de Vivre – Dimanche au Bord de la Mer), Paul Signac, 1895-96.

This idyllic image by one of the founders of Pointillism (another is Georges Seurat) is an unironic depiction of scenes of the good life by the sea. Signac describes the work in a 1893 letter to fellow Neo-Impressionist Henri-Edmound Cross:

“Great news! On your advice, I’m going to try a large canvas!… In the foreground, a group at rest… man, woman, child… under a large pine an old man tells stories to the young kids… on a hillside… the harvest: the machines smoke, work, lessen the drudgery: and around the haystacks… a farandole of harvesters… in the center, a young couple: free love!”

Joie de Vivre, Mark di Suervo, 1998.

Mark di Suervo’s New York City sculpture from 1998 proves that the original concept of the joy of living still inspires in the contemporary era. The 70-foot-tall work is made of two interlocking, red L-beams, which both reach up to the sky and down to the ground. In 2011, the sculpture was famously adopted by the Occupy Wall Street movement as a symbol of the proletariat protests in the plaza where it stands.

Joie de Vivre, Kees van Dongen, 1922.

Kees van Dongen depicts life at its fullest during the happening scenes of a social gathering. Using Fauvist color to denote sensual details – the green of a woman’s eyes and cleavage, the blush of a couple getting close – the Dutch-French painter was no stranger to the controversy his paintings caused. He along with Henri Matisse and others, exhibited at the provocative 1905 Salon d’Automne, which was a counter-exhibit to the official Paris Salon.

Joie de Vivre, Jacques Lipchitz, 1927.

A Cubist sculptor who ran in the same circle as Pablo Picasso, Jacques Lipchitz created his “Joie de Vivre” as a pivotal point in his artistic career. The bronze work from 1927 is looser, more curvaceous that the typical tight angles of Cubism and marks a changing style in its exploration of joy through more organic forms.

Oleanders, Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

Vincent van Gogh’s “Oleanders” is little more than a brightly colored floral still life at first glace. But a surprise is hidden in plain sight. On the table the artist has painted Émile Zola’s novel La joie de vivre (1883). The novel is ironically titled as its bleak story revolves around a child who has lost her parents. For van Gogh, oleander flowers with their hearty nature and plentiful blooms were the physical juxtaposition of Zola’s idea of life – a joyless entity driven by undeserved fate.

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