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Marina Abramović, an outsider on display at the Royal Academy

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Marina Abramović, an outsider on display at the Royal Academy

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After half a century of art experienced firsthand and literally on her skin, Marina Abramović has richly deserved the major retrospective currently underway in London, a celebration of her inexhaustible creativity.
Incredibly, she is the first woman to have the honor of an exhibition in the grand halls of the Royal Academy. In the opening press conference, Abramović said she was not flattered, quite the opposite: “It would have been more right to give the honor to Tracey Emin, who is English”, she declared generously.

Despite the fame and following she has gained, Abramović still feels like a foreigner, still an outsider. The Serbian artist, who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and then experimented with performance art, was a pioneer in using her body as the main instrument of her art, suffering both physically and mentally . During the performances she burned herself, suffocated, hit, froze, tormented, stabbed, pushing herself to the extreme limits of human endurance.

“There is very little art that comes from happiness – he explained in London -. Art comes from pain, both emotional and physical. Pain is like a door that allows entry into the world of art.” To enter the exhibition, however, you have to go through a door past two naked artists, a man and a woman standing facing each other like pillars, which force the visitor to contort to touch them as little as possible. It recreates ‘Imponderabilia’, the 1977 performance by Abramović and her partner Ulay, who remained impassive for hours looking at each other, exploring the intensity of human relationships.

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Videos, photographs, objects, sculptures, writings and installations

The exhibition ranges from videos to photographs, from objects to sculptures, from writings to installations. The famous performances of the past are visible on videos of the time with Abramović and partly recreated with numerous young artists who take turns to take his place. Past and present coexist. 1988’s Great Wall Walk is a video that follows the artist as he walks the Great Wall of China for 90 days, eventually meeting Ulay for a brief reunion before parting ways again forever. A completely idiosyncratic and personal farewell ritual. On an altar a real, living and naked woman sleeps lying under a skeleton, while underneath a video shows Abramović’s original performance, who breathes so hard that the skeleton seems to tremble. The inspiration for Nude with skeleton from 2002 came from Tibetan monks who sleep with the dead. The House with the Ocean View from 2002 was also recreated: for twelve days the artist lived in public, without eating or speaking.

Marina Abramović in mostra alla Royal Academy of Arts

Photogallery 11 photos


The ocean of the title is the mind of the spectators who observed it, the flow of energy, the silent dialogue and the emotional involvement that was established. Three young artists will take turns in the rooms of the Royal Academy: Abramović at 76 years old, after more than half a century of performance art, takes a step back. The Royal Academy exhibition was scheduled for 2020 and was then postponed due to the pandemic. “It seems like a miracle to have achieved it, I’ve been working on it for seven years,” said the artist. A miracle also because this year Abramović, seriously ill, was hospitalized for a long time in intensive care and risked dying.

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