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Provocative performance artist Abramovic returns to Amsterdam

By AFP

March 14, 2024 09:08 PM


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Performance art pioneer Marina Abramovic turns to the Dutch television interviewer sitting next to her and tells him to take his clothes off. And he obliges.

"I'm still shaking. But when Marina Abramovic tells you to take off your clothes, you do it," Max Terpstra, 25, a journalist for the NPO1 television channel said as the interview ended.

Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum of modern art is hosting a retrospective exhibition featuring around 60 of the boundary-pushing works of Abramovic, regarded as one of the world's foremost avant-garde performing artists.

From Saturday, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Abramovic, 77, whose career spans five decades since she emerged from her birth city of Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s, moving to Amsterdam and New York.

The edgy exhibition, simply titled "Marina Abramovic", features famous works including the 1974 "Rhythm 0" -- and a re-performance of the provocative 1977 work "Imponderabilia".

In "Imponderabilia", visitors have to squeeze between two naked performers -- one male, the other female -- to enter into the exhibit.

Another work, called "Luminosity", features a naked woman suspended on a bicycle seat against a wall.

In "Rhythm 0" -- seen on video at the Stedelijk -- Abramovic sat motionless on a chair for six hours, while the audience could select from 72 objects to be "used" on her in any way they liked.

The objects included flowers, honey and grapes, but also knives, a scalpel, scissors and a gun.

At the time, the self-proclaimed "grandmother of performance art" emerged from the experience almost naked, crying and bleeding, with rose thorns embedded in her stomach. One man even pointed a loaded gun at her.

Her work often challenged the boundaries of human endurance with her mind and body paying a toll.

"But it was worth every minute. I would never change a thing," Abramovic told AFP in an interview.

- 'Beautiful things' -

Abramovic's Amsterdam exhibition represents a homecoming for her, said Stedelijk Museum director Rein Wolfs.

Abramovic holds a Dutch passport, has a bank account here and even maintains a bicycle in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Museum said.

"Marina has a lot of history here. Some of her most important works started to come out during that period, so she is very much linked to Amsterdam," Wolfs told AFP.

It was here she first met and later lived with her closest collaborator, the late Frank Uwe Laysiepen, better known as "Ulay".

"Amsterdam is full of memories and beautiful things. It is so emotional for me to come back," Abramovic told AFP a few days ahead of the opening of her exhibition.

"I was really attracted by the human aspect here. The freedom to be able to say whatever you want," she said.

"But everything is going backwards these days," she lamented.

"It's not just Amsterdam, not just Holland, but the entire world. All that political correctness in so many ways really restricts the freedom of artists," she said, adding: "It's so difficult to find the right kind of balance".

- 'Next level' -

Dressed in her trademark black dress, fingernails painted bright red and walking with a cane, Abramovic reflected on her work.

Asked about telling a journalist to disrobe during an interview, Abramovic said it was not part of performance art, but a response to a comment he made about nudity in her work.

"You know, this young kid was talking about nudity. He was looking at 'Luminosity' with this naked woman on the wall, saying he was very uneasy with it... afraid of his own nudity.

"I said, it's OK. You're now with me. We do exactly the things we are afraid of. Can you take your clothes off and get rid of your fear right here?" she said.

"That was the weirdest interview of my life," said NPO1 journalist Terpstra.

"I am a huge fan of Abramovic, but what she just did there was next level."

Abramovic's work can be seen at the Stedelijk Museum until July 14.

 

 

 

AFP


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