The first large scale retrospective of her work to be staged in the UK, Marina Abramović After Life will showcase the artistic achievements of one of the towering figures of performance art.
The exhibition, which will open at the Royal Academy of Arts in September 2020, will include a series of live performances of Abramović’s most celebrated works, as well as several new pieces created especially for the exhibition.
The artist has achieved worldwide renown for her radically interactive and boundary shifting performances.
Rhythm 0, for example, challenged the notion that the artist is in control of the artwork.
The piece consisted of Abramović standing motionless for six hours in a gallery. On a table near the artist, Abramović had assembled a collection of 72 objects including a metal bar and a gun loaded with one bullet. Beside the objects was a note with instructions about the exhibit. The note read:
“There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired. I am the object. During this period I take full responsibility”.
The piece famously ended with one gallery goer holding the loaded gun to Abramovic’s head.
Abramović later described the dangerously unpredictable nature of the piece. “If you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you … I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere”.
Another work, The Artist Is Present, offered the viewer an opportunity to explore their own emotions while sitting quietly watching Abramović.
Positioning herself at a long wooden table directly opposite an empty wooden chair, Abramović sat motionless for eight hours each day for three months. Over that time, thousands of gallery goers came up to sit opposite her and to participate in the experience. Meeting the gaze of each while never saying a word, many visitors, overcome by the intimacy of the encounter, were moved to tears. All the while the line of would be participants stretched down the gallery hall.
“It was a complete surprise” said Abramović of the experience later. “This enormous need of humans to actually have contact.”
After Life will bring together works spanning the artists 50 plus year career, from her earliest artistic experiments to her recent meditations on the effects of age on her body and the transition between life and death.
Marina Abramović After Life will be at the Royal Academy of Arts from the 26th of September until the 8th of December 2020. More information can be found here.
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