Do you know who Marina Abramovic is?
The short story is that she is a well-known performance artist. Performance art is an art form that involves four elements: time, space, the performer’s body and a relationship between the performer and the audience.
The long story is that Marina was born in 1946 in Belgrade, Serbia (Yugoslavia) and later moved to Zagreb, Berlin and Amsterdam to study art. In the 70s she became known for creating art revolving physical limits to the body. That included using knives, blood, fire and generally harming yourself.
Sounds pretty weird, right?
Her art is brutal. Her art is painful and important. It’s shocking and disturbing. Above all it’s fascinating.
I first got to know her when I watched the HBO documentary ‘The artist is present’, about her performance in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. During the exhibition she did a performance where she sat silently on chair and people could visit her. People stood in line to sit across from her and simply enjoy her presence. It’s a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece.
Marina Abramovic inspired me to live a more honest life. Here are my favourite quotes by Marina, in the hope it will inspire you to learn more about her.
10 inspiring quotes by Marina Abramovic:
On her exhibition
“The hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing because it is demanding all of you.”
On being alternative
If you’re alternative when you’re young, when you’re 18, and 19, and 20, and you’re still alternative with 29 and you’re alternative at 30, and you’re alternative at 40, and you’re alternative at 50, but excuse me… I’m 63. I don’t want to be alternative anymore.
On how everything is temporary
Woody Allen has a wonderful line: ‘Today I’m a star. What will I be tomorrow? A black hole?’ That’s very important to know – that you have the moment, then you lose the moment. You have to see your chances, you have to take them, and you also have to see when you don’t have chances to take.
On the purpose of her art
My purpose as performance artist is to stage certain difficulties and stage the fear. The primordial fear of pain, of dying, all of which we have in our lives, and then stage them in front of audience and go through them and tell the audience, ‘I’m your mirror; if I can do this in my life, you can do it in yours.’
On growing up in Serbia
The brother of my grandfather was the patriarch of the Orthodox Church and revered as a saint. So everything in my childhood is about total sacrifice, whether to religion or to communism. This is what is engraved on me. This is why I have this insane willpower. My body is now beginning to be falling apart, but I will do it to the end. I don’t care. With me it is about whatever it takes.
On her mother
I had a very difficult relationship with my mother. She used to wake me up in the middle of the night if I wasn’t sleeping straight and was messing up the sheets. Now when I stay in hotels I sleep so straight they don’t even think I’ve used the bed.
On the process of creating art
For the first three months, I place each student at a table with a thousand pieces of white paper and a trash can underneath. Every day they have to sit at the table for several hours and write ideas. They put the ideas they like on the right side of the table; the ones they don’t like, they put in the trash. But we don’t throw out the trash. After three months, I only take the ideas from the trash can. I don’t even look at the ideas they liked. Because the trash can is a treasure trove of things they’re afraid to do.
On one side is this strict orthodox religion, on the other is communism, and I am this little girl pulled between the two. It makes me who I am. It turns me into the kind of person that Freud would have a field day with, for sure.
On how to become better
From a very early time, I understood that I only learn from things I don’t like. If you do things you like, you just do the same shit. You always fall in love with the wrong guy. Because there’s no change. It’s so easy to do things you like. But then, the thing is, when you’re afraid of something, face it, go for it. You become a better human being.
On appreciating art
Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant. He said, “Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.” So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.