Marina Abramović is best known for her performance pieces, in which she tries to explore what is possible for an artist to do in the name of art. Her best known piece was the recent “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sat motionless for 736.5 hours over the course of three months, inviting visitors to sit opposite her and make eye contact for as long as they wanted. So many people began spontaneously crying across from her that blogs and Facebook groups were set up for those people.
This performance showed just how easy it is to dehumanize a person who doesn’t fight back, and is particularly powerful because it defies what we think we know about ourselves. I’m certain that no one reading this believes the people around him/her capable of doing such things to another human being, but this performance proves otherwise.
MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: In the performances, I create a structure in which I can go far into the physical limits that a body can take. I don’t want to die. That is not the purpose. I want to experience the edge and how much I can take to this edge. There was one performance when the public took all the responsibility. This was the piece Rhythm 0, in which the control was not in my hands anymore. The other possibility is with the borderline between the public and the performer. When the public is participating, there are all kinds of possibilities for them to intervene and change the flow of the performance and change the meaning of the performance. But in my case, I don’t want to give the public that much freedom. There was one piece with Ulay in which a person from the public attacked me with a karate jump during the performance. We arranged this just to provoke that question: what is the borderline between the public and the performance?