top of page

Marina Abramovic, turning points in her career

Inspired by the Sean Kelly Gallery exhibition "Performative", Marina Abramovic's ninth solo exhibition. (Fri 4 Mar 2022 to Sat 16 Apr 2022), presenting four distinct turning points in Abramović’s five- decade career, the exhibition chronicles both the development of her oeuvre and how it has influenced performance art globally.

We discovered those four key points in her career.

1. Rhythm 10, 1973

First turning point of her career - one of her first performance works, Rhythm 10, marked a pivotal moment when Abramović first began to consider herself a performance artist. “This was the first time that I understood [the] energy of the audience, and how actually this energy, I could take and transmit it into my own and give it back. And it was the first time that I didn’t feel pain or any kind of discomfort doing it, that I understood that in performance, my body is object and subject, and I can push the limits in front of the public as far as I can, much more than if I would do in my own private life.” These first early solo performances pushed the boundaries of self-discovery, both for herself and her audience.

2. The Lovers, 1988

In April 1988, Marina Abramović and Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) staged The Lovers, one of the most epic works in the history of performance art. Stationed at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, the famed artistic couple set forth to walk some 5,995 kilometres of the Wall and meet at the middle, where they were to be married. But things did not work out as they had planned.

However, over the years between the inception of the idea and their performance, Abramovic and Ulay’s relationship dissolved. This was their final performance together.

"Each of us walked two and half thousand kilometers to meet in the middle and depart from each other and continue working as a single artist. It was very dramatic and a very painful ending." - Marina Abramovic.

After this performance Abramović began to create what she refers to as “transitory objects.” In these works, the artist incorporated natural materials into interactive objects to transmit the various energy levels of different minerals.

3. In 2010 at MoMA, Abramović engaged in an extended performance called, The Artist Is Present. The work was inspired by her belief that stretching the length of a performance beyond expectations serves to alter our perception of time and foster a deeper engagement in the experience.

Seated silently at a wooden table across from an empty chair, she waited as people took turns sitting in the chair and locking eyes with her. Over the course of nearly three months, for eight hours a day, she met the gaze of 1,000 strangers, many of whom were moved to tears.

For a total of 716 and a half hours, eight hours a day, over nearly three months, Abramović sat silently at a wooden table across from an empty chair, as visitors to the museum were invited to take turns sitting across from her.

After the Lovers performance Marina and Ulay hey hadn’t spoken in more than 20 years when Ulay made a surprise appearance at this performance. It was very emotional silence.

Installed in the main gallery will be six film projections documenting, in real time, the performance at MoMA. On the left wall are the faces of each of the individuals who took a seat opposite Abramović, while the right wall shows the artist’s face. The back wall features a monitor showing Abramović and visitors seated at the table together.

4. For its New York premiere, the film of Abramović’s 2020 operatic production the 7 Deaths of Maria Callas.

In it, Abramović turns her focus to renowned opera singer Maria Callas, whose stunning soprano voice captivated audiences around the world in the mid-20th century. Through a mixture of narrative opera and film, Abramović recreates seven iconic death scenes from the American-born, Greek singer’s most important roles—in La Traviata, Tosca, Otello, Madame Butterfly, Carmen, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Norma—followed by an interpretive recreation of Callas’ own death performed onstage by Abramović herself.

Since the early 1970s, Marina Abramović has been pushing past perceived limits of the body and mind, and exploring the complex relationship between artist and audience, through performances that challenge both herself and, in many instances, participants emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Would highly recommend to visit the exhibition. by Daria Mudrova


bottom of page