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Marina Abramović at Henie Onstad Art Kunstsenter, Oslo, November 22, 2017. (Cr: Jan Carsten Bjerkfelt /

Marina Abramović: «I am not afraid to love. I am not afraid to suffer»

In her own words: Marina Abramović meeting the press at the opening of her retrospective exhibition «The Cleaner», November 22, 2017 at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway.

Marina Abramović is introduced by director Tone Hansen of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, and Abramović opens with thoughts on making a retrospect.

– Making a retrospective is kind of a big deal. Because you have to think about your age, which is not always easy. When most people make retrospective it’s because they are dying, that’s it, you know. But I’m not thinking of dying. This retrospective to me is really about looking into the past and then immediately put the past behind me, and then go on to the present, and look into the future. For me it’s all about future. This exhibition is called «The Cleaner» because of so many different ways you can clean your memory, when you retrieve things you have completely forgot.

– We start this show with the paintings. I never in my entire life dreamt that I would show paintings in a museum, because I was ashamed of them. You know, I had been doing the paintings since I was 14, and then when I stopped and started with performances around 18 years old, I was thinking «that’s it», and I decided not to even look into these early works any more. But then time passes, and you look back, and you see remembrance of everything you do. In the beginning the artist does different things and the work is separate and you see no line, but after 50 years of work its like a big puzzle you manage to complete. It all makes sense. For me, in this exhibition all makes sense.

– My old professor at the art academy said one day: «If you are very, very lucky in your life, you can have onegood idea. But if you are a genius, you can have two».

– I think I will stick with one good idea, and that good idea was body. All of my life has been about the body. The body is such a universe, you can never explain it enough. My idea was how to use my body in my work, how the body becomes subject and object, how I can push the limits, how I can see – just not physical limits, but also the mental limits. It is an endless research. This exhibitions shows all different stories of that idea, and its different faces.

LIPS OF THOMAS – 1975/2017
I slowly eat 1 kilo of honey with a silver spoon.
I slowly drink 1 liter of red wine out of a crystal glass.
I break the glass with my right hand.
I cut a five-pointed star on my stomach with a razor blade.
I violently whip myself until I no longer fel any pain.
I lay down on a cross made of ice blocks.
I remain on the ice cross for thirty minutes until the public interrupts the piece by removing the ice blocks from underneath me.
Performance / Duration: 2 hours / Krinzinger Gallery, Innsbruck, 1975.
(Photo from the Marina Abramović exhibition, Cr: SummaB)

SummaB: We would like to hear more about the extreme situations you have put yourself in in the performances?

– I am always dealing with three basic things: Humans are afraid of suffering, afraid of pain and afraid of mortality – because one day we are all going to die. These three things are the base for so many arts; classic art, contemporary art, the movies, the writings, the music. What I do, is to try to stage these elements in the form of performance. And I like to give this experience to the public, with going through the difficulties, and going through the edgy moments, and pushing the body to its limits. And I want to be inspirational: if I can do this, you can do too. But I could not do this without public, I could never do these performances at home, because I need the energy of the public as an extra force to be able to put myself into these situations. When you are on the edge you have to be really focused, or you can hurt yourself badly. You can’t be with your mind anywhere else. You have to be in the present. Being on the edge is my favorite place. But you need to push these limits, because if you are afraid of pain, if you avoid pain, you can never understand what pain is.

– It’s like my life. It’s full of drama. Heartbroken stories, love that went wrong, mysteries, difficulties… But I am not afraid to love, I am not afraid to suffer, says Marina Abramović.

Three suspended rooms were built facing the street. The only thing separating artist and audience were three ladders with rungs made of upturned butcher’s knives. I lived in this space for twelve days, without eating or speaking. The audience could see me sleeping, meditating, showering or using the bathroom. The performance was a declaration on transparency and the state of helplessness, and afforded an energy dialogue between performer and spectators.
Performance / Duration: 12 days / Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, November 15-26, 2002.
(Cr: facs. catalogue «The Cleaner» Marina Abramović)


Marina Abramović, The Cleaner, 2010. (Cr: Marco Anelli / Marina Abramović Archives

Les også: Marina Abramovic: En superstjerne ser tilbake


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