Marina Abramović is a superstar. A Serbian artist – Belgrade born – she has conquered the USA and the whole world with her extreme performances. Her greatest award is probably not the prestigious Golden Lion she earned at the 1997 Venice Biennale, but rather the honor and recognition she has won from the public and from critics. Aside from admiration and awards, something else she has found In Italy is love. At least for a while: she was married for ten years to Paolo Canevari, an Italian artist.
It was Marina Abramović’s first time in Italy, with her performance Rhythm 0. And what was the performance about? She presented herself to the public with several pleasure and pain instruments on the table next to her. The visitors could use the instruments against her as they wanted. Six hours. Everything started quietly, with people approaching her cautiously. After three hours her clothes were all cut and destroyed and after four the public began to hurt her. In the end there was a group of people fighting to protect her from the assaults of another group. And she was totally passive. Nothing special, huh?
Marina Abramović is in Italy with a performance called The Abramović Method. This time Marina invites the public to become the main character of the event. She aims on teaching the visitors her method and letting them really understand how important they are. The result? A group of people, in white coats, listening to the artist, standing still, sitting and lying down for a couple of hours. It seems to me more of a yoga lesson than an artistic performance … but maybe I’m just skeptical. I just feel that it is very different from her previous works.
I mean, she is the one who starved herself for a 12-day endurance test in 2002 and walked the Great Wall of China with Ulay, a performance artist like her and her lover for several years, in order to express the personal drama of the end of their relationship. She is the same person who in 2010 completed a 736 hour and 30 minute performance at MoMA, sitting motionless in the museum’s atrium, while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. What about now? What could people learn about her art in two hours of meditation? Ok, let’s admit it: I’m really skeptical.
Anyway, it’s a huge event in Milan. She is now both at the PAC (Padiglione di Arte Contemporanea) with The Abramović Method and at the Galleria Lia Rumma with With Eyes Closed I See Happiness, a collection of sculptures and photos about her. A perfect occasion to engage the Italian public in her art and, at least, to let them stop for a moment and take some time to think. And breath. And stay still. Not so bad in the end…