Marina Abramović is a 68-year-old Serbian performance artist who has been on the art scene since the 1970s. From Wikipedia, performance art is described as “performance presented to an audience, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation.” Following is more on performance art from TheArtStory.org:
Performance is a genre in which art is presented “live,” usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the 20th century, playing an important part in anarchic movements such as Futurism and Dada. Indeed, whenever artists have become discontented with conventional forms of art, such as painting and traditional modes of sculpture, they have often turned to performance as a means to rejuvenate their work. The most significant flourishing of performance art took place following the decline of modernism and Abstract Expressionism in the 1960s, and it found exponents across the world. Performance art of this period was particularly focused on the body, and is often referred to as Body art. This reflects the period’s so-called “dematerialization of the art object,” and the flight from traditional media. It also reflects the political ferment of the time: the rise of feminism, which encouraged thought about the division between the personal and political and anti-war activism, which supplied models for politicized art “actions.” Although the concerns of performance artists have changed since the 1960s, the genre has remained a constant presence, and has largely been welcomed into the conventional museums and galleries from which it was once excluded.
From doing some quick research on Abramović, I was most interested in the story of her and Ulay’s relationship. Ulay is a German performance artist and he and Abramović collaborated for many years. After waiting 8 years to get permission from the Chinese government, each began walking from each end of the Great Wall of China until they met in the middle. At that time, they had broken up with each other and this was their farewell. When Abramović had her The Artist is Present show in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, Ulay visited and sat across from her. She reached out and touched him.
I thought of Abramović after seeing her on CBS Morning News last weekend. You can watch the 6-minute clip HERE.