In 2014, Abramovic is known well beyond the circles of performance artists and art lovers. Marina Abramovic is a name. She hangs out with Lady Gaga and wears Givenchy. She has hit the big time, especially since her retrospetive at the MOMA in New York “The artist is present”.
In 1973, Abramovic performed her first piece ‘Rythm ten’. She used twenty knives and two tape recorders to play the “Russian game”. Rhythmic knife jabs are aimed between the splayed finger of her hand. She used every knife until she cut herself, then moved on to the next one after she recorded everything. She repeated this after going through 20 knives by trying to replicate her errors. Abramovic always aims to push herself mentally and physically, she is continuously testing her boundaries using her own body to explore state of conciousness as well as the limitations of the body.
She challenges her viewers, and in 1974 she invited the public to use any item she placed in the gallery on her as they saw fit. She came out of this performances in tears, dripping with blood. As Abramovic described it later: “What I learned was that… if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” … “I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.”
512 hours is a far cry from the bloodied performance pieces the artist became known for, worlds away from where she started so many years ago. This exhibition is quiet and subtle, and Abramovic is the mother hen, guiding her visitors into a space of reflection, meditation and contemplation. Located in London, I find this piece really resonates with viewers living in the fast paced city from all corners of the world, no matter age, gender or race. I believe her interaction with visitors to the gallery is one of utmost importance in a place where we all constantly rush at an unreal pace. We all need some time to be still and reflect, something which is very often put on the back burner.Many may find her to have gone soft, others have called her a sell out. I believe Abramovic has not been afraid to age, develop and most importantly, she is still giving back to her viewer, in her own subtly powerful way.