DISCLAIMER: All of this information has come from Wikipedia and an interview with Lady Gaga that I found on YouTube. My knowledge on this article is narrow. But it is one I wanted to share, because I think it speaks volumes.
Her name is Marina Abramović.
She’s 66 years old. She’s from Serbia and based in NY. And she’s a performance artist.
For the of you who don’t know what performance art is, it’s essentially any form of art that is done in the presence of a live audience – that’s a broad definition, but performance art has taken on a broad role, so it fits.
The particular story that I want to relay through this post is this.
“Rhythm 0, 1974”
The idea, loosely explained, was to test the limits binding the performer and the audience to their furthest degree. She did this by assigning herself a horrifically passive role, where she would stand, for six hours, in an open space, behind a table with carefully chosen objects laid upon it, and a sign explaining what she was doing, and that she would take full responsibility for what was to happen to her.
On the table, the objects she used consisted of things that could be used for pleasure, and objects that could be used for pain, as far as death:
A rose. A feather. Grapes. Honey. A condom. A whip. A scalpel. A gun. And a single bullet.
Apparently, as she explains in the interview, beginning the performance, her audience was quite playful. They were hesitant and reserved and did not think to push the boundaries.
Later, they became more aggressive. She explains it as “6 hours of real horror.” Where people tore at her clothes. Pierced her skin with a rose’s stem. Cut her with a knife and drank her blood. They carried her around, half naked, laid her down on the table and stabbed the knife in between her legs, driving it into and through the table’s surface.
It got to the stage where somebody put the bullet into the gun, and held it at her head with a finger on the trigger. Another member of the audience brushed this person aside, and diffused the situation. Another person tried to have sex with her, until (assumedly “he”) he was deterred by someone else. The tension was thick, real.
After the six hours had lapsed, after she had been caressed, pricked, cut, scalded, almost raped, and almost shot in the head, the gallery’s supervisor came and said that the act was now over. She walked forward toward the audience, naked, with blood dripping from her skin, tears in her eyes. The result?
Everybody ran away. Not one person was willing to confront her active state.
She explained that that night, when she was staring at herself in the mirror of her hotel room, that she saw a long, single strand of white hair.
I don’t believe in God. And I don’t believe that anyone is a “real” or “authentic” prophet – that is to say, I don’t believe that people are hand picked and sent down from “heaven” to lead us.
However, there is something hauntingly beautiful about this woman, eerie. Her eyes are possessed with only presence. I had tears in my eyes – not when I read the story or listened to a video of her explaining what happened during this process – but rather, and simply, when I watched her do a promotional video for a piece that she did for MoMa.
There is just something about her eyes that speak so clearly without words.
There’s not much more I’ve to say about this. No running commentary. Think of it whatever you will. I simply wanted to do my part by sharing the story. A story that I personally felt to be beyond awe. Beyond words.
Truly transcending beauty.