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From One Branch To The Next: Art’s Abramović Wave

Blog
From One Branch To The Next: Art’s Abramović Wave

06.02.2020

Text: Leyla Aksu
İllustration: Saydan Akşit

The pioneer of performance art, the warrior, the priestess, the grandmother... Known by many names, Marina Abramović has taken performance from the remote corners of the art world into the belly of popular culture over the course of a career spanning more than 50 years. Continuing her practice in the tradition of body art since the 1970’s, taking the body as its primary medium, today Abramović carries on disturbing the divide between art and audience and testing her endurance with ever-increasing simplicity. Hosted by Istanbul’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum and Akbank Sanat with her retrospective exhibition Akış/Flux and an open call to Turkish performance artists starting at the end of January 2020, below we take a quick look at Abramović’s impact across the world of art.

Starting off as a fine arts student in Belgrade, Abramović first began gravitating towards performance art by the end of the 1960’s. With roots reaching back to Futurism and Dada and developing with names like Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus artists of the 1950’s and 1960’s, her performance art focuses on creating time-based, real and impermanent experiences, each set with their own individual parameters. From Rhythm 0 (1974), during which she placed herself in the hands of gallery-goers for six straight hours to Golden Lion receiver Balkan Baroque (1997), in which she sang folk songs while cleaning bloodied cow bones for four consecutive days, Abramović’s continuous subjection of her body to risk, her exploration into the limits of the mind and body, and unearthing of the effects of time on the simplest of motions have all left their mark on various artistic disciplines.

Coming up close after her, Abramović has peers such as Shirin Neshat and Tania Bruguera, similarly foregrounding the body, as well as dozens of students and collaborators, artists of a new generation like Amanda Coogan and Melati Suryodarmo. And with Abramović’s retrospective exhibition The Artist is Present, held at the Modern Art Museum (MoMA) in New York in 2010, becoming the museum’s largest ever exhibition dedicated to performance art and breaking attendance records, this new wave has found its way not only to artists but also to art enthusiasts and into the institutions as well.

Also among those spearheading artists’ use of film, documenting her projects with the camera since the very beginning, Abramović’s treatment of time and the extreme conditions she establishes have provided inspiration for a multitude of directors. While video artists like Matthew Barney and Ragnar Kjartansson, as well as her frequent collaborator, director Matthu Placek are among those listing her amidst their primary inspirations, Abramović’s presence in this arena can also be felt in particular works by James Franco, with whom she’s embarked on numerous projects; Nabil, an artist known for his music videos; and Jun Diaz.

With a recently increasing interest in music as well, Abramović has also introduced audiences to her unique listening technique through the “Goldberg” (2015) Bach concerts she organized with Igor Levit. Her Seven Deaths of Maria Callas opera, dedicated to the diva that inspired her most, will be making its debut this year. And although the meeting of performance art and pop music can be traced further back than Abramović, of course, in recent years, the artist’s impact on the pop world has reached a whole new level: in addition to more experimental artists inspired by Abramović, such as Djrum or MNDR, for his “Picasso Baby” (2013) video, Jay-Z’s six-hour performance was a direct adaptation of Abramović’s The Artist is Present, and Lady Gaga, who counts the artist among her main influences, has become the most famous students of the Abramović method. And above all, there is the artist’s long-term collaborator and close friend, who she has already requested to sing at her funeral, Anohni (Antony & the Johnsons).

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