Marina Abramovic: Artist Portrait

Marina Abramovic

Born 1946.
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Marina Abramovic Biography

Marina Abramovic is a pioneering performance artist, who engages her body as medium in lieu of traditional materials and modes of artistic production. Born in Belgrade and raised under Yugoslavia’s oppressive Communist dictatorship, Abramovic has spent much of her career responding to authority; her parents had ties to the regime and she has spoken about her severely strict, violent, and militaristic childhood. She trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and completed post-graduate studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.

Since the early 1970s, Abramovic has experimented with her body as a means to explore the nature of memory, evoke the traditions of ritual and prod at the effects of trauma. In her Rhythm performances 1973–1974), she engaged in a variety of physically painful acts including repeatedly cutting her hands with knives, breathing before an industrial fan until losing consciousness, and surrounding herself within an enflamed 5-point star – a clear communist symbol. In addition to testing the limits of the physical endurance as a distinct mode of artistic investigation, these works signaled a career of challenging the demarcation between audience and participant. She collaborated with her partner artist Ulay in the 1980s; using their bodies, the pair performed pieces that commented on romantic partnership and its effects on the self.

In 2010, the Museum of Modern Art held a legendary major retrospective and performance recreation of Abramovic’s career, the largest performance art exhibition in the history of the museum. During The Artist is Present, Abramovic sat in the center of a large room, and invited visitors to the chair opposite her, so that she may engage in prolonged one-on-one eye contact. The artist sat with 1,545 sitters including, some celebrities. The project widened engagement and participation to a wider audience of newly interested viewers.

In addition to her 2012 Peabody Award, Abramovic has achieved numerous honors and accolades, including two honorary doctorates and the Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Biennale. In 2010, James Westcott published When Abramovic Dies, a critical biography chronicling Abramovic’s pioneering career.

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