The Protocols of Marina Abramović

By Francisco-Fernando Granados


Image Credit: The Life and Death of Marina Abromavić.  Image courtesy of Luminato Festival 2013.

Toronto is abuzz with the promise of a Marina Abramović blitz. The Luminato Festival is presenting a selection of some of her most recent projects including an interactive installation of her MAI Prototype at Trinity Bellwoods Park, Robert Wilson’s production of the biographical play The Life and Death of Marina Abramović with original music by Antony, and a lecture by the artist herself on The Past, The Present, and The Future of Performance Art.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, I had a chance to speak with Abramović about the work she will be bringing to Toronto, as well as her 40-year trajectory as an artist. Since her uncompromising conceptual solo pieces in the 1970s that boldly questioned the aesthetic, social and ethical foundations of what could be considered an artwork—for instance, Freeing the Memory (1975), Freeing the Voice (1975), Rhythm 0 (1974), Rhythm 5 (1974), Role Exchange (1975)—Abramović’s oeuvre has performed what can perhaps be best described as a pop cross-over, travelling from the world of underground experimental art into a much broader field of global circulation. These days, for Abramović, a work like the MAI Prototype is

“much larger than just about performance [… it] is really to embrace art, science, technology, spirituality… the fusion of all these media. The aim is to change the consciousness, to give different awareness to the human being.” [1]

Luminato 2013 Marina Abramovic Headshot 01 - Photo by  Laura Ferrari_300_300

Image Credit: Marina Abramović Headshot. Photo by Laura Ferrari. Image courtesy of Luminato Festival 2013.

Indeed, Abramović has remained consistently focused on working live to create structures that place her audience into heightened, often moving states of sensory awareness. I, personally, had the chance to sit across from her during The Artist Is Present (2010) at MoMA and was one of the performers for the re-staging of Imponderabilia (1977) in Toronto for Nuit Blanche in 2010. And while her commitment to durational practice suggested for me an interest in the materiality and the physical limits of the body, for Abramović, the focus is in what cannot be seen:

“I’ve been interested very much in the immateriality of everything, the immaterial part of ourselves.”

This interest in the invisibility of intuition leads to a conversation about her interactions with Indigenous knowledge systems, her legacy in the face of the fragility of life, and the traces her early conceptual work in her newest endeavours.

[1] All quotations taken from author’s interview with Abramović, May 2013.

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