Marina Abramovic: Performance Artist

The Artist is Present – An exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art. Image Source

I recently stumbled on an article about a Serbian Artist: Marina Abramovic I found strangely interesting… Something about this woman just grabbed my attention so I looked into some of her work and truth be told, I find her to be disturbingly intriguing!

Marina is a performance artist. She began her career in the early 1970s and has since received many awards for her work, has been featured in documentaries and was also the subject of an independent film : ‘Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present’ which is based on her life and performances.

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Her performance titled: Rythm 0 (1974) is what caught my attention… Marina created a public performance in which she tests the viewer’s behavior towards another human being (in this case being herself) who is completely helpless. A challenge of humanity and trust, Marina assigned herself a passive role in the piece: she left the conclusion up to the spectators. Marina placed 72 random objects on a table and invited guests to use these objects in any way they pleased on her. Among these objects were honey, feathers, a rose, a whip, scissors, a gun and a bullet. For a total of six hours, the artist stood motionless and allowed the audience to do as they pleased.

At first, the audience proceeded with caution however, as time passed they became more aggressive.

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Marina described her feelings 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.” (Daneri, 29; and 30).

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Another famous piece by Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (The Museum of Modern Art, New York 2010)  a further look into human behaviour that is truly captivating.  Many videos, books and articles have been created on this piece where Marina would simply sit in her seat across from a visitor, unspeaking and motionless. The reactions range from blank stares to fits of laughter and even tears. Perhaps the most beautiful moment was when Marina came face to face with a old lover, Uley whom she had not laid eyes upon in decades.

The emotions shown in this short video are perhaps the most beautiful, true and heart warming displays of love and loss I’ve ever seen.

Further reading:

What are your thoughts on Marina Abramovic’s work? Tell us in the comments below!


3 thoughts on “Marina Abramovic: Performance Artist

  1. While Rhythm 0 shows the obvious, its still an important lesson I guess. That alot of people will take advantage of you if you let them. Or if they are confident enough to. The lesson here is to not give people any opportunity to take advantage of you because they will do it.

    After a quick glance of some of Mariana’s other works they seem a little sexually explicit? It seems to be a theme of her work. What do you think?
    Also are there some of Mariana’s other works or videos/movies that have you watched or liked? I must say I found her cutting her body a little too gory for me! I’m not sure I’m tough skinned enough to enjoy the gory themes of her works!
    Nice blog. Keep it up.

    1. Hi Samantha, thank you for your feedback!

      You can find some interesting videos on YouTube about Marina and her works. A good one is ‘Marina Abramović on Performance’ (uploaded in 3 parts):
      The MOMA website from one of her exhibitions is a good reference too:

      Another interesting piece of hers to look at is “The Artist is Present”. Marina pretty much sits and stairs at people until they cry, it’s hilarious! (Am I sick for thinking it’s hilarious??) I think I would’ve just laughed uncontrollably but I wonder what it was that actually made these people cry!

      I found Rythm 0 to be an interesting study on human behaviour. I do agree with you that we should not give people the opportunity to take advantage however, this study did make me consider people with disabilities or the elderly who are sometimes taken advantage of due to the fact that they are unable to defend themselves the way others can. It’s a horrible reality and I can appreciate the point Marina was trying to make however, I too find her techniques to be a little “out there” for my tastes! As you pointed out, I have also noticed the recurring sexually explicit theme in her work and the goriness too!

      Thanks again for your comments!

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