Notes on Marina Abramovic’s lecture at the Southbank Centre
Yesterday evening me and a couple of hundred other women found ourselves at Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall attending a lecture by Marina Abramović.The lady at the box office mentioned that i was very lucky as I was the last woman who got a ticket and that the lecture was sold out. I am a last minute person and I didn’t really care that much until that moment where i felt privileged and intrigued too. I would be one of those few (females) who would watch the big star of performance live.
The queue was spectacular! Women of all kinds: with piercing and without, with tattoo and without, sophisticated and not, academics, researchers, performers, hippies and not, lesbians, bisexual, sexual, straight (not). We sat down with our i-phones and black notebooks in alert; every single word could be precious. For our blog posts, our practices, our manifestos, our future careers, our future relationships, our death. If she made it we can make it. Or not.
She came on stage, timid, simple style: black trousers black blouse (no bra). ‘I am gonna talk like a woman to women. No political, no big issues tonight’ she said ’ I will talk about art, pain and death. My mission is to understand and entrust pain’. Below are some quick notes that I kept trying to write in darkness:
Marina on pain: I always thought that to be a good artist you need to have really fucked up childhood. You have to know pain in order to be willing to change. Happiness is a state - you want to keep it like it is, you never want to go anywhere else. But with pain you force yourself to move towards change.
Marina on women: It is difficult for women to be good artists because women don’t want to sacrifice much. They want to be women, to have a family, to have children, and to be artists. The human body has specific amount of energy and can’t do everything. Some women quit. I always remember Louise Bourgeois who she had to wait until her husband died to be an artist at her 70s…
Marina on performance: In theatre everything is fake while in performance everything is real. A knife is a knife, and blood is blood. You have to construct something in a specific time and place. This something might never happen again, not the same. The public comes to complete the work. And the artist has to be present otherwise the public will smell it.
Marina on death: We are permanent here. And this is why I make performance, to control pain, to trust the spirit, and not be afraid of death. I do performance 40 years now, and I am telling you that performance has become fashionable again. Art as a commodity like the Damien Hirst’s mulit-million art is out of place, is not current anymore. People now need an art that creates another reality.
More or less her lecture was a basic synopsis of what is on her book and film ‘The Artist Is Present’. She also showed some videos from Pina Bausch’s work, some performances of her students and a video of Maria Callas where the way she was accepting the applause was highlighted: The vulnerable diva, who transforms on stage and then she becomes again an insecure human being that want to be loved and accepted. Of course Marina Abramovic identifies herself with Maria Callas. She has become or always been a diva herself, with all the positive and negative connotation that the word comes with.
I had no expectations. What kind of expectations you can have from an hour lecture happening within the safe frame of Queen Elizabeth Hall under Antony’s brand name?
We all knew. We all went for her. For what she is and represents. The one and only performer who my dad knows. She might now exhibit her work at MoMa and make herself an MA course (but not a commodity, of course) but she was a pioneer at 60s and she is a pioneer again today. Marina Abramovic was born in Yugoslavia (although she is described as a New York based/Serbian artist, a quite controversial combination of nationalities indeed). Her parents were Partisans who fought with Tito -her father was a commander and her mother a harsh woman major in the army. She is the one who got a weapon against her temple as part of a performance, the one who walked half of the Great Wall of China for a man, the one who lived with the Aborigines and eat dozens of unpeeled onions. And that’s why the room was full, and that’s why we queued, and stand up in silence like at the church when she got naked and opened her arms in Jesus Christ position.
I just wanted to see how she looks like and listened to her voice, her imposing and gentle voice. I have only listened to her on the cd and I always get hypnotized whether i like or not what she says.
]ps[: Bean, just promise me that you will never give a talk at the Southbank Centre.