How can I begin to write a paper about something I’ve been “passionate” about for a little less then a year? I use to dislike performance art with a passion. I didn’t use to like it because as a visual artist I couldn’t understand the purpose of art with no object. Art that essentially left nothing behind, but confusion. How could something be ‘art’ if it’s purely an action with no tangible result? Art to me had always been object centric. Art is a vessel that is used to portray or convey ides or images conceived by each individual artist.
Some Artists pick up a paintbrush or a chisel and hammer, while others use words as their medium. Each artist is driven to create by their own unique view of the world and their view of life in general. Some simply try to show what they see while others tell a story. Some attempt to shift the world by pointing out flaws and faults in society while others share their visions of Utopia. In performance art the medium is memory. Through using their bodies as vessels performance artists leave behind images and impressions on a most basic human level.
The first time I came across Marina Abramovic’s work I didn’t pay much attention because of my dislike of performance art. I kind of just wrote her of as an attention starved narcissist. I can’t remember when I came across Marina Abramovic’s work again, but I read a lot of art news. She had recently finished “The Artist is Present,” where she sat motionless for 700 hours over the course of three months. She was seated at a plain wood table and invited members of the public to sit across from her one at a time. When I first read about “The Artist is Present” the premise of the piece sounded absurdly stupid to me.
What could sitting motionless for 3 months prove or accomplish? I tried to ignore it, but I found I kept thinking about this strange woman and her desire to simply be present. This time something clicked and I had to know more about her. In performance art the chosen medium is the artists body and instead of leaving behind art objects performance artists leave behind memories and emotional impressions. Using art this way almost has more impact because each viewer will remember the performance differently and in turn take something different away from it.
By using your body as your medium you are inviting questions of self and what it means to have a body and the difference between physical body and emotional body. So, we should all be able to relate to this type of art as we all have bodies and hard-wired emotional reactions to external stimuli, be it only visual. Choosing to use yourself as your medium takes balls and a level of self-awareness not everyone knows how to access. This type of art is inspiring to me because I am drawn to that state of mind a performance artist must reach to make their work a success.
I am curious about the emotional state of an Artist while in the act of performing. In “Rhythm 0” Marina has turned the tables on the roles of “viewer” and “object”. Without an audience “Rhythm 0” simply would not work. We would be left with 72 objects on a table and a lone woman staring blankly at the floor. It is only when the audience takes part in the action, only then does the piece come to life. While Marina herself has selected the objects it isn’t until the public comes in that these passive objects can become instruments of pain or pleasure.
The objects come alive while Marina (The only living aspect of the piece) remains completely passive. It is the underlying nuances that draw me to this work and Marina’s body of work as a whole. As an introvert I was drawn to her work because I couldn’t understand how someone could share so much of them self for the sake of art. Not only is she present for a majority of her works, she bases a lot of her pieces on inner demons and personal fears. How can she stand there, nude, stoic and alternately flogging and cutting herself for all to see?
Initially her art can seem shocking but it isn’t without merit, Marina knows exactly what she is setting out to do and what specific feelings she wishes to impart. Part of the reason I started reading so much about Marina Abramovic is because of the state of mind I was in at the time. I had recently walked away from a 6-year relationship. The relationship had been stifling, toxic and oppressive, no room to breathe really. What first struck me about Marina was an overall feeling of absolute freedom and self-awareness I hadn’t seen before.
She appears to be in complete control of herself and her performances minus the unpredictable nature of an audience. Then again, the fact that she is able to make herself that vulnerable in front of a crowd made me admire her that much more. In a world where nothing ever stops and there are always more options it was refreshing to hear someone was just going to ‘Be’ for a while. It might sound easy to sit still and just be present, but really when do any of us take the time to do this? Even if you are sitting still your mind is still 10 million other places.
Marina was motionless, but completely present, both for herself and for her audience. You would think after sitting still for that long you would start to lose focus, but not Marina and you can tell she is there and fully aware by the look on her face. Stoic, but intrigued, hard, but there is a deep warmth in her dark eyes. Even when all Marina is doing is sitting completely still and staring straight ahead there is a stoic, wise, all-knowing look that comes across her face that gives me chills. As an introvert I am drawn to her generally extroverted nature.
I strive to find those traits in myself and by reading and watching more about her I feel more in tune with myself. Does this make sense? By trying to ‘see through her eyes’ and wondering how she sees herself and the world I in turn have to be fully aware of my own self and self perceptions. I suppose it’s like a vicarious performance art piece. I believe meditation can be a form of art even if it’s strictly a solo experience. Marina Abramovic has drastically changed the way I define art and even the ways that I see myself in the world.