Marina Abramović, Portrait with white lamb. 2010. Courtesy the artist, Marco Anelli and Lisson Gallery.
Currently on view at Lisson Gallery London is an exhibition of new and retrospective works by Marina Abramović. The installation showcases videos, photographs, and sculpture, divided in two parts between galleries across the street from one another. In one, her seminal Rhythm series is mounted in its entirety for the first time; in the other, Abramović’s new series Back to Simplicity makes its debut.
Back to Simplicity reveals a somewhat softer side of Abramović: exhausted from her recent 90-day performance at the MoMA New York, the artist returned to nature to renew her energy. Shot in upstate New York, where Abramović intends to open an institute for the preservation of performance art, the recent images are a far cry from the challenging, violent, and provocative work for which Abramović is known. Instead of pills, guns, or other tools of violence, the artist’s new companion is the lamb. As a symbol of innocence, this creature carries with it a gentler, more vulnerable air.
Marina Abramović. Video still from Confession. 2010. Image courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.
More text, images, and link to the artist’s Twitter interview with Lisson Gallery after the jump…
Yet the new work, which reads at times like magical realism, does not betray the artist’s bold character: the shots are tight, with Abramović’s stirring expressions dominating the frame. Whether crying over a flower, carrying an armful of firewood, or quietly peeling potatoes, the artist and her emotions are very much present. “The artist should be empty and vulnerable, available and accessible,” she shared recently in a interview with Art in America. This is a stark contrast to her nearly-expressionless face at her MoMA performance.
Lest we forget the Abramović we are accustomed to, critic Linda Yablonski observes that at the opening of the exhibition, “The artist herself was in the gallery, having a stare-back contest with the P.S. 1 director Klaus Biesenbach, curator of her recent retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.”
As part of the exhibition, Abramović took to Twitter to answer questions posed by director of Lisson Gallery, Nicholas Logsdail. Either by going directly to Lisson’s Twitter, or by searching using the hashtag #marinalissonlive one can read brief, eloquent statements from the artist, such as, “Every time there is an economic crisis around you have to start from nothing. I always like to confront my fears. I am staging my fears in my performance. It is also important to explore humor in art” and “I see my work as my children. For me it was important to be in the present for my MoMA performance. I gave unconditional love to total strangers.” Along with discussing potatoes, donkeys, and flashmobs, Abramović revealed that her MoMA performance will also be staged in the Garage Moscow in September 2011. Aside from this surprise, followers received a joke: “How many artists do you need to fix a light bulb? I don’t know I was only there 6 hours!” The entire exchange is available in this transcript.
Marina Abramović, Holding the Lamb, 2010. Courtesy the Artist and Lisson Gallery.
Born in Belgrade in 1946, Abramović is the daughter of a museum director and a Serbian revolutionary. The artist’s father was a commander in World War II, while her mother was a major who also served as Director of the Museum of Revolution and Art in the mid 1960s. Abramović studied in Belgrade until her move to Amsterdam at age 30. After initial experiments with painting and sound art, Abramović arrived at performance, the first of which was Rhythm 10 (1973). In this piece, the artist used 20 knives and 2 tape recorders to play the Russian game between the fingers. “At that time,” she shares in a monograph by the Fondazione Antonio Ratti, “it was very important to exercise with pain, with blood, with the mental and physical limits of the body.”
After this performance came Rhythm 5 (1974), wherein Abramović encloses herself inside a burning 5-pointed star. After a doctor in the audience saved her from the near fatality of smoke inhalation, the artist relates, “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. So I started thinking about how I could make the performances, in which I could use the body with and without consciousness, without stopping the performance.” This statement could be seen as a harbinger of The Artist is Present at MoMA earlier this year.
Marina Abramović, Sleeping with white lamb, 2010. Courtesy the Artist and Lisson Gallery.
The work consists of three smooth, concave pieces of quartz crystal affixed to the gallery wall for viewers to lean their heads, chests and other body parts against. These ‘pillows’ as Abramović calls them, address both potential for healing properties of art and the distance traditionally maintained between viewer and object.
– J. Lindblad
Exhibition Site [Lisson Gallery]
Frieze-Dried London [New York Times]
Against Performance Art [Art Forum]
Marina Abramovic Discusses Performance Art – Video [T Magazine]
Interview: Marina Abramovic [The Guardian]
Artist Marina Abramovic: I have to be like a mountain [The Guardian]
Art, performance, and the spaces where they happen: Thresholds of acceptability [Architectural Research Quarterly]