Marina Abramović is everywhere lately.
A marathon performance at MoMa, another retrospective in Moscow, on the cover of POP magazine, hosting a star studded event at Jeffrey Deitch’s MOCA in LA and an exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery slated for 2012, the HBO documentary “The Artist is Present” just screened at Sundance. An ever growing list of projects that is taking her across continents…
Exclusive long form of interview first published in POP magazine FW2012
Marina Abramović is everywhere lately. She has emerged from what was considered an alternative section of contemporary art, Performance Art, to finally occupy an untouchable position in the Pantheon of Pop.
A marathon performance at the MoMa, another retrospective in Moscow scheduled, and an exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery slated for 2012, day and night filming of an HBO documentary and an ever growing list of projects. Marina is known for her works in which she tests and pushes her emotional,mental and physical strength, but her schedule takes its toll: Marina is exhausted.
Broad recognition has come comparably late for Abramović, who was often categorized as some sort of Exotic Serbian Vixen. Nevertheless, she has shaped a significant slice of art history like no other.
Today, less considered for her public sexual identity, and more appreciated for her timelessness and her bravery, one could unarguably call Marina “the diva of contemporary art”, were she not so grounded.
Freja Beha Erichsen with her "Mini Me". A collaboration by Marina Abramović for POP magazine Photography by René Habermacher
Our conversation takes place just after Marina’s return to New York from Manchester, England where she spent six weeks collaborating with Robert Wilson on a new biography, “The Life and Death of Marina Abramović”. The play was staged with accompanied music written and conducted by Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) and narrated by a ferocious Willem Dafoe.
The audience witnessed him meticulously rummaging through the details of her life chronologically. Marina has been clear about her lack of appreciation for theatre as a concept and this play marks a sharp departure from her concept of herself as a performance artist.
She participates in what she used to essentially despise: “To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre. Theatre is fake: there is a black box, you pay for a ticket, and you sit in the dark and see somebody playing somebody else’s life. The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real. Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real. It’s a very different concept. It’s about true reality.”
René Habermacher: With this piece you staged something that you call artificial theatre. It lacks the realness that is central to your work. How was this experience for you?
Marina Abramović: I am his material. I completely gave all the control to Bob (Robert Wilson). That is the only way to really be material for someone else, which is very interesting, because its just absolutely the opposite of what I do. This is first time that i have this really radical approach with Bob – he absolutely refused anything to do with performance. This was an amazing experience for me and very difficult, because his approach to rehearsal is like mine to performance, – but yet it’s just rehearsal! Just be there for hours and hours in order for him to fix the light. I lose my reason, I need the public, I need another kind of dialogue. This was a huge discipline not to kill him!
RH: How did this project with Bob come together? (more…)
“An artist should avoid going to the studio every day”
Last night was the last performance in Manchester.
Everyone in the cast and crew will soon be returning to their “normal” life, wherever it may be around the globe, to their city, their apartment, their studio.
Over the last week, seven exhausting nights, the play is ending.
It has been seen by Viktor & Rolf, Riccardo Tisci, the director of the MoMA and many others.
But fear not, it will return, soon, somewhere else around the globe.
Marina's 6th commandment. Photo by René Habermacher.
This is not a dick.
It’s a strap-on.
It’s strapped on a man, Andy.
In the play, Andy masturbates while wearing a mask of Marina, as she flirts with him.
Tonight is the last night to see this, as it is the last night the play is performed in Manchester.
Marina's fifth commandment. Photo by René Habermacher.
This is the wig of Willem Dafoe when it’s not on Willem Dafoe.
It’s in the make up room.
In the play, Willem appears as a demonic, cartoonish narrator, meticulously going through Marina’s life chronologically, year after year.
“Enemies are very important”
Marina's fourth commandment. Photo by René Habermacher.
After an energetic premiere, the play keeps running until the 16th.
One of the cast we havent yet introduced is Daisy, the boa constrictor.
Like bruno’s predecessor was stiffy, Daisy replaced the rolled-up blanket used for rehearsals.
She naps in her well temperated box towards the minutes of spotlight.
It was difficult to find a hotel for her, says David the “snake-man”, so many houses had refused them shelter…
Daisy and David. Photo by René Habermacher.
“An artist should not make themselves into an idol”
Marina's commandment III. Photo by Lynsey Peisinger.
Mini-Marina is a doll that wears Marina’s own, real hair.
It just flew in from New York City.
The costume department is working on dressing Mini-Marina for the premiere…
“An artist has to be aware of his own mortality”
Marina's Commandment II. Photo by Lynsey Peisinger.
Its raining in Manchester. Although sometimes not.
The first preview went on stage under the roof of that building where his architect threw himself from his landmark tower to death.
Marina thinks there must be some energy left from this.
At Marina’s funeral, who do you expect to see in the coffin? Marina, obviously. Since we have three people in both of Marina’s funeral scenes, they decided to make everyone wear “Marina masks” so that everyone would look like her.
We call them “Marina Death Masks”. They looked much more morbid before they put makeup on them…
Four more days to go until the premiere. The rehearsals proceed until late at night with great concentration. After four weeks of work, the cast, creative team and crew are almost ready for the first preview tonight. Bob Wilson, Marina Abramovic, Willem Dafoe and Antony Hegarty. An ensemble this beautiful doesn’t happen very often, perhaps just once in a lifetime.
The premiere is just hours away. Bob is orchestrating his cast and crew and the multi chromatic illumination of the play. Antony continues to conduct the music, snapping the tempo for the band while singing on stage. Willem recites his text in an endless mantra, a flood of whispers. His face and body moving through their various expressions. There is tension under the roof of the Lyric Theatre at the Lowry in Manchester. There have been troubles and tears and there have been shiny moments of camaraderie and playfulness, all in an effort to tell you a story. The story of Marina’s life. It is a story that will carve out a space for her in your heart forever…
Now, we go into our last rehearsal before the preview. The vultures are flying, Marina is slipping into her red, feathered dress and Bob….well, Bob is setting light cues.
“An artist should have friends that lift their spirits”
Marina's commandment I . Picture by Lynsey Peisinger.
The first three weeks of rehearsals were held in a rehearsal space where we used temporary props and stand-in animals.
Stiffy (aptly named by Willem Dafoe) was Marina’s stand in horse. We miss Stiffy now that we are at the theatre and the “real” horse has arrived.
He had a very wide body and Marina had to walk like a cowboy after sitting on him for too long.
But he was good to Marina for those weeks.