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Artists Marina Abramović
Marina Abramović Photo

Marina Abramović

Serbian-American Artist

Movements and Styles: Performance Art, Feminist Art

Born: November 30, 1946 - Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Marina Abramović Timeline


"To me the pain and the blood are merely means of artistic expression."
Marina Abramović
"Through performance, I found the possibility of establishing a dialogue with the audience through an exchange of energy, which tended to transform the energy itself. I could not produce a single work without the presence of the audience, because the audience gave me the energy to be able, through a specific action, to assimilate it and return it, to create a genuine field of energy."
Marina Abramović
"I started realizing I could use any material I want, fire, water, and the body. The moment when I started using the body, it was such an enormous satisfaction that I had and that I can communicate with the public that I could never do anything else. I could never go back to the seclusion of the studio and be protected by the space there. The only way of expression is to perform."
Marina Abramović
"When I am performing a piece, anything that happens in that moment is part of the piece."
Marina Abramović
"Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant. He said, 'Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You dont. But you listen to them anyway.' So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look."
Marina Abramović
"We are always in the space in-between... all the spaces where you are not actually at home. You haven't arrived yet.... This is where our mind is the most open. We are alert, we are sensitive, and destiny can happen. We do not have any barriers and we are vulnerable. Vulnerability is important. It means we are completely alive and this is an extremely important space. This is for me the space from which my work generates."
Marina Abramović

"The audience is like a dog. They can feel immediately that you are afraid, that you are insecure, that you're not in the right state of mind - and they just leave..."


Towards the late 1950s, as abstract art began to lose impetus, many artists across the world began to embrace performance art. Performance had been a feature of avant-garde art since around 1910, but Marina Abramović's work is typical of the aims of the new generation in her eagerness to avoid traditional, object-based art materials (such as paint and canvas), and to cut down the distance between the artist and the audience by making her own body the medium. Born under Yugoslavia's repressive Communist dictatorship, and raised by parents closely tied to the regime, Abramović's dramatic and dangerous performances often seem like cathartic responses to these early experiences of power. She has produced a quantity of sculpture, but she remains best known for performance, and she remains one of only a handful of performance artists of her generation who have continued to perform late in their career.

Key Ideas

Marina Abramović's work is typical of the ritualistic strain in 1960s performance art. It often involves putting herself in grave danger and performing lengthy, harmful routines that result in her being cut or burnt, or enduring some privation. She views her art almost as a sacrificial and religious rite, performed by herself for a congregation of viewers. And the physical ordeals she endures form the basis for exploring such themes as trust, endurance, cleansing, exhaustion, and departure.
We might interpret her work as having displaced art from traditional media such as painting and sculpture, and moved it directly on to her body. Yet far from conceiving it as simply a surface, she has said that she thinks of the body as the "point of departure for any spiritual development."
Between 1976 and 1988 she collaborated with the German-born artist known as Ulay. The performances the pair created during this time often exploited their duality to investigate ideas such as the division between mind and body, nature and culture, active and passive attitudes, and, of course, between male and female.


Marina Abramović Photo


Marina Abramović was born in 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia to parents who held prominent positions in the Communist government. Her father, Vojin, was in the Marshal's elite guard and her mother, Danica, was an art historian who oversaw historic monuments. After her father left the family, her mother took strict control of eighteen-year-old Abramović and her younger brother, Velimir. Her mother was difficult and sometimes violent, yet she supported her daughter's interest in art. While growing up, Abramović saw numerous Biennales in Venice, exposing her to artists outside of Communist Yugoslavia such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Louise Nevelson.

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Marina Abramović Biography Continues

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)
Artwork Images

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)
Artwork Images

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)
Artwork Images

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

More Marina Abramović Artwork and Analysis:

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Marina Abramović
Interactive chart with Marina Abramović's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Vito AcconciVito Acconci
Bruce NaumanBruce Nauman
Chris BurdenChris Burden
Joseph BeuysJoseph Beuys
Yves KleinYves Klein

Personal Contacts

Susan SontagSusan Sontag


Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Performance ArtPerformance Art

Influences on Artist
Marina Abramović
Marina Abramović
Years Worked: 1970 - Present
Influenced by Artist


Ana MendietaAna Mendieta
Matthew BarneyMatthew Barney
Coco FuscoCoco Fusco
Karen FinleyKaren Finley

Personal Contacts

Laurie AndersonLaurie Anderson
Charles AtlasCharles Atlas


Performance ArtPerformance Art
Feminist ArtFeminist Art

Useful Resources on Marina Abramović

Special Features






artist features

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

The artist's most recent endeavors on The Art Story Blog.

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


When Marina Abramović Dies: A Biography Recomended resource

By James Westcott

Marina Abramović: Biography

By Marina Abramović, Charles Atlas

Art, Love, Friendship: Marina Abramović and Ulay, Together & Apart

By Thomas McEvilley

More Interesting Books about Marina Abramović
MAI - The Marina Abramović Institute Recomended resource

Organization and Incubator. Also includes great information on Abramović

Provocateur: Marina Abramović Recomended resource

By Karen Rosenberg
New York Magazine
December 4, 2005

Walking Through Walls Recomended resource

By Judith Thurman
The New Yorker
March 8, 2010

Do It Again

By Jorg Heiser
Frieze Magazine
October 2005

Marina Abramović

By Laurie Anderson
Summer 2003

Marina Abramović and Ulay Recomended resource

MoMA 2010 Retrospective

Tate Shots NYC: Marina Abramović

February 4, 2009

Marina Abramović - Nude with Skeleton

June 18, 2007

Seven Easy Pieces or How to Perform

October 13, 2006

More Interesting Videos with Marina Abramović

in pop culture

The Artist is Present - 2010

Documentary film

Balkan Baroque - 1999

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Cite this page

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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