Performance Art – Marina Abramovic and her tortuous performance

Marina Abramovic is one of the most famous performance artists of our time. The pictures from her three month art performance “The Artist Is Present” were seen worldwide. In this artistic performance, she may only have been sitting on a chair, but for six hours a day and six days a week. In front of her, there was placed a table and on the opposite site of her another participant, that could sit there as long as they wanted. Marina said absolutely noting, just looked the participants directly in the eyes. Some people cried, some showed love, and others became happy or angry.

But lets take a look to her art performances of the past. Her former performances were more extreme like putting herself at risk of death, getting cut and sometimes putting herself on the edge of physical exhaustion.

In her very famous art performance “Rhythm 0”, she took the responsibility for the risk of getting killed, by handling a group of people and 72 things, which the participants could  use on her as they wished. Among these objects you could find for example a rose, a bullet, knife, a razor blade and a pistol, which lay on a table in a gallery, where the performance took place. With this she forced out human nature. What would they do?


Some of them were very kind to her and wiped her tears away, while others stripped her naked and cut her with a razor blade. Believe it or not, some person even took the bullet and put it in the pistol, threatening her with it, by setting it into her temple. This happened closely to the end of the six hour performance, when others stopped this from happening.

But that’s her goal, forcing the audience to be participants, not just spectators. The self destruction is real, not played. This is real life and not a theatre play. This kind of art will shock you, or even disgust you in some way. It leaves the audiences irritated.

How to deal with the mental terror afterwards? Some probably wish they had never experienced any of it. Like her performance “Thomas Lips”, where she ate a whole glass of honey and drank a whole bottle of wine, whipping herself afterwards, cutting a five pointed star in her stomach and then laying on a cross made of ice blocks for 30 Minutes. So we are left to wonder, how can one make sense of all that self-torture?

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