Marina Abromovic is present…

Marina Abramovic has been calling out to me this week, and I have only touched the surface of a deep, rich pool of art and creation.

A New-York based Serbian artist, Marina Abramovic has been making work since the 1970′s. Since the beginning, her work has explored the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. In her early performances, she carved a star with a blade into her stomach, she stood naked in a doorway with another man as people passed through and she created a piece entitled “Rhythm 0″ in which she placed 72 objects that could inflict pain and pleasure and, for hours, allowed the audience to act with the objects as they pleased. She is a revolutionary in the art world and has been honored for her avant-garde work.

This is a film she created called “The Star.” It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Simple, yet oh so complex and provocative.

This is a recent talk she gave at the Smithsonian. It’s absolutely WONDERFUL. She talks about her process of making performance and shows several videos of well-composed pieces that portray the artful, speaking body.

This is a link to her manifesto. These are wise words I’d like to live by and I feel are worth reading.

One of her most recent pieces is titled “The Artist is Present.” In this piece, Abramovic spent 3 months at the MoMA and sat at a table where one audience member at a time was allowed to sit there with her. Marina and the audience member sat with each other and stared into each other’s eyes. The beauty and challenge of this piece was to question how long presence can last. To be present is one of our greatest struggles in the modern era. What can we do in our circumstances to be in the now for our loved ones and ourselves?  What conversations must we have with ourselves to push our limits of presence?

In her Smithsonian lecture, Abramovic talks about the difference between performance art and theatre. Having only created one piece of theatre, which is an autobiography that is redirected every 4 years (now it’s being worked on by Bob Wilson), she states that theatre is unattractive because it’s fake. In performance art, nothing is fake. Everything is happening in real time and the circumstances are real. For example, if you bleed, you are really bleeding.

Having been deeply inspired by this work, I question how I can make my theatre more real? How can I really serve my audiences through art in a genuine way? I think one of the answers to this is what was explored in “The Artist is Present.”  To push our notion of presence reveals transparency, which is the key to universality. But I think modern artists can look even deeper into this question and push its possibilities in theatrical performance. Figuring out how I can make reality a part of my performance-practice is a question I think worth exploring.

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