Opening this month the Royal Academy of Arts will present the first major solo survey in the UK of the work of internationally acclaimed Serbian performance artist and Honorary Royal Academician, Marina Abramovic (b. 1946).
The exhibition will open with Public Participation, featuring two works in which Abramovic famously engaged directly with her audience: from the radical physical interaction of Rhythm 0, 1975 to the quiet stillness of The Artist is Present, 2010. Held 45 years apart, the two works encapsulate the development of her practice. Following on, The Communist Body will foreground Abramovic’s origins in the former Yugoslavia and how Communist ideals, experienced socially as well as personally, have informed her practice. Works featured here will include Rhythm 5, 1974 (London, Lisson Gallery) and The Hero, 2001. The artist has spoken of the Balkan mind as ‘baroque’, in reference to what she describes as dramatic extremes of expression and emotion. Also included will be Balkan Baroque, 1997, a work related to the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Body Limits will bring together Abramovic’s key early performances, presented through video and photographs. Some focus on the use of her body and her physical stamina, while others represent a search for transformative release. Featured here will be Abramovic’s work with Ulay, an intense exploration of human relations, including Imponderabilia, 1977, which will be reperformed. The next section, Absence of the Body will focus on the break-up of Abramovic and Ulay’s relationship and feature The Lovers, The Great Wall Walk, 1988, a ritualised separation where the artists walked for 90 days across the Great Wall of China from opposite ends, meeting briefly before going their separate ways. During the Great Wall Walk Abramovic became fascinated by the mythology of the wall, that it was built along the earth’s energy lines, and by her study of Chinese and Tibetan medicine. This gave rise to a series of Transitory Objects, displayed in Energy from Nature, with which Abramovic sought to give shape to nature’s energy flows. The surfaces of the objects are polished through use, bearing witness to the passage of bodies in time.
In Coming and Going, Abramovic equates the ephemerality of performance art with the transitory nature of our own lives. Inspired by Tibetan monks’ practice of sleeping alongside the dead, Nude with Skeleton, 2002, will be reperformed. Also featured will be Good and Evil, 2020, which refers to the language of Slavic icons. Art making is a way of life for Abramovic, and in using her own body as her medium she has literally lived her life through her work. Through her experiences of different cultures, Abramovic became interested in how feats of endurance act as vehicles towards a mental leap of faith, a transcendence that goes beyond one’s own physical limitations. The final galleries will focus on the transformative experience of performance art and equating this with different spiritual traditions, particularly giving shape to female spirituality, such as Bed for Aphrodite and her Lovers, 1990. Works here will be increasingly still, including Luminosity, 1997, which will be reperformed.
I call it liquid knowledge. When the body is exhausted you reach a point where the body doesn’t exist anymore. Your connection with a universal knowledge is so acute, there is a state of luminosity.
The exhibition will conclude with The House with the Ocean View, 2002 being reperformed. First performed by Abramovic in 2002, she lived continuously for 12 days in a ‘home’ of only three spaces in the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. Abramovic fasted by only drinking water, while ritualising everyday actions to the bare conditions of living. Audiences were invited to witness it on the condition
that they didn’t speak but established an energy dialogue with the artist. Held a year after 9/11, the work created a collective vigil.
Marina Abramovic, 23rd September 2023 – 1st January 2024, Royal Academy of Arts.
Live performance schedule*
The live performances in the exhibition will be performed by performance artists cast and trained by
the Marina Abramovic Institute.
Imponderabilia, 1977, Daily, approx. 1 hour per performance 4-6 performances each day
Nude with Skeleton, 2002, Daily, approx. 2 hours per performance, 2-3 performances each day
Luminosity, 1997, 20th September-4th October, 16-31 October, 13-28 November, 11 December-1 January
Approx. 30 minutes per performance 3-4 performances each day
The House with the Ocean View, 2002, 5th-15th October,1st-12th November, 29th November-10th December- Performed continuously over 12 days, 24 hours per day. Performances will end no later than half an hour before closing time. There will be breaks between performances which will vary from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours. *The performance schedule is subject to change.
Alessio Bagiardi, Darcey Ball, Mads Bittman, Antonio Branco, Tina Afiyan Breiova, Lorea Burge, CARU, Seamus Casey, Marie Close, Jia-Yu Chang-Corti, Valerie Ebuwa, Chiara Marini Ferretti, Agata Flaminika, Jose Funnell, Rowena Gander, Agnes Luck Galpin, Rob Hesp, Bartel Jespers, Benjamin, Jordan, Francesca Kamil, Katarzyna, Kuzka, Lidia Lidia, Sara Maurizi, Hannah Mason, Duarte Pinho E Melo, Loren McK, Kieram Corrin Mitchell, Mateusz Piekarski, Olia Poliakova, Yuyu Rau, Mahsa Salali, Laura Schuller, Leonardo Sinopoli, Agnieszka, Szczotka, Madinah Farhannah Thompson, Jaya Twill, Rosalie Wahlfrid and Kam Wan.
Marina Abramovic UK projects
Marina Abramovic Institute Takeover, at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 4th –
8th October 2023. 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, at the English National Opera, London Coliseum, London, 3rd – 11th November 2023
BNP Paribas AccessArt25
The BNP Paribas AccessArt25 programme will offer 2,000 young people, aged 16 to 25, free access
to the exhibition and a range of related activities on Saturday 14th October 2023.