Good morning! Have you all ever heard of the Slavic performance artist Marina Abramovic? She's considered the "grandmother" (she's currently 70) of performance art, gaining notoriety in the 60's + 70's for her avant garde approach to the art form. Her fame subsided a bit in the 90's and early 2000's, until 2010, the year she introduced the wildly popular MoMA exhibit in New York titled "The Artist is Present". The exhibit consisted of Marina sitting in a chair at a table, with an empty chair placed directly across from her. She sat for 750 hours total, over the course of just under two full months in the museum. The performance was interactive, Abramovic having instructed patrons to form a line and one by one come sit across from her at the table, wherein she would then look up at each person and stare into their eyes. Some cried, some got angry, and some were overjoyed, but the exercise was employed in complete silence.
Thousands upon thousands of fans and museum-goers visited the exhibit, which also included a retrospective of her most famous pieces from 40 years before, including celebrities and personal friends of Abramovic. Then, the making and duration of this show was made into a documentary aptly titled "The Artist is Present". This is when I discovered her work, as Columbia hosts an annual film festival, and one of my assignments for an art class was to go see my choice of a film at the festival and then write a report on it. I loved the documentary, and the insight into one of the most daring artists in recent history was fascinating, because artists are typically so aloof, as they prefer for their art to speak for them. I re-watched the documentary again when it came out on Netflix (I think it's still on there), and still found it just as interesting.
Finally, a few months back, I found out that Marina was publishing an auto-biography. I had to have it. It immediately went on my Christmas list (thanks mom and dad!), and this month, it's our book of choice! Fair warning: Abramovic's pieces almost always included nudity and some form of violence, and even reading about some of the performances is hard. They were extreme, and intentionally so, as she liked to push the audiences out of their comfort zones. The only other performance artist I can compare her to is Yoko Ono when she presented her "Cut Piece" in the same era.
That being said, I'm already one hundred pages in, and I'm hooked. If you can get past the telling of uncomfortable situations, then the book is humorous and enjoyable, letting Marina's personality shine through. Let's have an awesome, book-filled February!