The grandmother of performance art returns to the UK.
Since the 1970s Marina Abramovic has pioneered the use of performance as visual art, exploring the extreme physical and psychological limitations of the body. Her works are often violent and always challenging for both herself and her audience. At sixty-three years of age she looks forward to opening her first major UK exhibition in twelve years tomorrow at the Lisson Gallery, London.
Comprised of both new and old works, the exhibition will survey the artist’s influence on contemporary art over the last thirty years. Set in two locations, 52-54 Bell Street will exhibit the Rhythm series from her early performances. This particular body of work was her most brutal and physically challenging. Rhythm 10 (1973) explored ritualism, where the artist recorded the sound as she ran a knife between the splayed fingers of her hand. Each time she cut herself, she changed the knife and eventually replayed the tape to re-enact the past. Rhythm 5 (1974) saw the artist jump into a communist five-four rayed star in an attempt to cleanse her political upbringing (both her parents were members of the communist party). Abramovic eventually lost consciousness and responded days later with “I was very angry because I understood there is a physical limit: when you lose consciousness you can’t be present; you can’t perform.” Despite its violence, the Rhythm series will be exhibited in its entirety for the first time. That in itself is a rarity worth experiencing. The second gallery space at 29 Bell Street will showcase Abramovic’s new body of work titled Back to Simplicity made in Southern Italy. It sees the artist return to nature with photographic works of goats and sheep.
The charm of Abramovic is that her audiences are never forced into the role of voyeur. Instead they become integral to her performances, providing an intimate sense of reality. Earlier this year MoMA held a retrospective of her work titled The Artist is Present. Indeed she was, staging a 736-hour silent performance in which she sat at a table while the audience sat opposite her. It was the largest exhibition of performance art ever witnessed, and even fuelled a Facebook group in which Marina’s sitters discussed their experiences. Tomorrow the Lisson Gallery will hold a live interview with the artist on Twitter, where the audience are invited to ask questions and become involved with yet another great performance.
Marina Abramovic opens tomorrow and runs until 13th November 2010, Lisson Gallery, 52-54 and 29 Bell Street, London.