Looking inside Marina Abramovic
A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, but it can also be the most boring. For more than 40 years, Marina Abramovic has been searching for a relationship, an interaction, with the public. However those first, almost furious, performances of the 1970s have given way to a more formal restraint, something that also requires a greater emotional effort; from her, and from the spectator.
A trip to the centre of Marina Abramovic through ‘Holding Emptiness’ - the display at the CAC Malaga which follows the career path of this Serbian ‘performer’ - returns this contemporary art centre to the epicentre of contemporary art, after its previous shows by the Chapman brothers, Miquel Barceló and Gilbert&George.
Even the presentation of the project caused a bit of a stir, with Abramovic lying on some of the pieces that seek interaction with the public and a crowded press conference that lasted for an hour and a half. It was something between a masterclass on performance and an intimate reflection. Unsurprisingly, both extremes exist in the life and the work of Abramovic.
“I work with my private life, but who cares? What is important is that you transform your personal life into something universal,” said the artist, who was asked about the supposed feminist intentions of her work.
That caused a strong reaction: “I am not a feminist. I hate that idea. I am a woman, but I am not a female artist because art has no gender. There are only two types of art: good art and bad art. Who produces that art is not important. The moment you use those categories, you are putting a woman in a ghetto.”
“I have never felt that I have been suppressed because I am a woman,” she continued, “but there is one fact: there are more male than female artists for one simple reason: women are not prepared to sacrifice themselves for art like men do, because a woman wants to have a family, love and art, and the bad news is that you can’t have all that. We only have one single energy.”
It is an energy that Abramovic seems to have tamed on her journey inside from outside, from the physical to the contained, as the director of CAC Malaga, Fernando Francés, described this exhibition, which continues until 31st August.
‘Holding Emptiness’ traces the most recent works by Abramovic which are marked by this shift towards the spiritual and which finds its Rubicon in ‘The artist is present’, the performance she gave at the MoMA in the spring of 2010 and which has been documented in several large-size portraits which also appear in the exhibition catalogue.
Interaction with the public
Meanwhile, the facilities at the CAC Málaga do invite interaction with the public. There are couches and chairs where people should relax to receive the energy from the minerals that are placed below or on the works of art. Videos such as ‘Vanitas’, ‘Self portrait’ and ‘Tesla urn’ show some of Abramovic’s most-recorded actions, and the final stage of the montage comprises photos of legendary performances such as the ‘Rhythm’ series, (1973-74), ‘Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful’ (1975) and ‘Relation in time’ (1977).
And there, the spectators will have arrived at the focal point of the exhibition, of Abramovic and, perhaps, of themselves.