Like Andy Warhol to a previous generation of rock and pop acts, performance artist Marina Abramović has become a muse to some of today’s biggest stars.
But who is Abramović and why are Jay and Mother Monster hyping her to their fans?
Abramović was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1946 and began her career in the early 1970s as a painter, visual, text and sound artist as well as one of the pioneers of the performance art movement. Along with fellow performance artists Vito Acconci, Chris Burden and Bruce Nauman, Abramović helped explode the boundaries of fine art with conceptual performances and happenings that often involved her testing the limits of her endurance and pain threshold.
Like Burden, who once crucified himself on a Volkswagen Beetle in a piece called “Trans-fixed,” Abramović was not afraid to put herself in harm’s way for such pieces as 1973’s “Rhythm 10,” during which she played a kind of Russian roulette with a series of knives, cutting herself multiple times in the process, which she then repeated. In “Rhythm 5” from 1974, she lay at the center of a burning 5-point star until she lost consciousness.
But perhaps her best known work is 2010’s “The Artist is Present,” a grueling performance during which Abramović sat silently for 736 hours in a gallery at New York’s Museum of Modern Art staring at a group of “sitters” who lined up for the privilege of being part of the piece. In a 2011 documentary about the performance that traced her career and the heavy physical toll the performance took on the then-63 year old artist, Abramović is seen meticulously preparing for the piece and fretting over the endurance needed for the longest performance of her career.
As one of the last of her generation of performance artists still creating new works, Abramović continues to focus on art that ritualizes everyday actions like standing, sitting, dreaming and lying down in an effort to provoke a higher state of consciousness for herself and her audience.
Among the more than 750,000 visitors who came to the MOMA over the course of “The Artist is Present” (which ran from March 14-May 31, 2010), were Bjö, Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed, Sharon Stone, James Franco and Gaga, who is slated to take the stage on August 25 at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
The new Gaga video is, in fact, part of a promotion for Abramović’s Kickstarter campaign for her Marina Abramović Institute, which will focus on the study, preservation and presentation of long duration music, dance, theater, film and performance art pieces.