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Works by Marina Abramović

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Though some have dubbed her the “grandmother of performance art,” you won’t find Marina Abramović crocheting baby sweaters anytime soon.

This fierce female has been cut, burned, stripped and violated all in the name of art. And what’s most hardcore is that she normally does it to herself. Rhythm 0 was first and last time she let the general public participate in one of her endurance pieces and that was a bust, to say the least. She wanted to explore themes of pleasure and pain with audience members and instead she got a crowd of perverts cutting her clothes off, stabbing her with rose thorns and holding a loaded gun to her head. Yikes.

But that’s not to say the performances in which she harms herself are any less intense. She was especially extreme in her youth. For instance, her first performance ever involved her stabbing between her spread fingers with a knife, à la Russian mobster. She cut herself over 20 times. She’s taken pills that gave her seizures, and once almost lit herself on fire.  She built a huge wooden star structure and soaked it in petroleum. After lighting it up, she tossed bits of her hair, toe and fingernails to make the fire flare. Already sounds like a bad idea, right? Well then the young performance artist hopped right on into the blazing star, and promptly passed out due to the, you know, lack of oxygen. The audience realized only just in time that it was not part of the act, as the flames came dangerously close to her unmoving body. I told you, she’s cray!

Funnily enough though, while she lived in Yugoslavia, Abramović had to finish all these crazy antics before curfew. Her mother was a super strict military officer and according to Marina, she wasn’t allowed to leave the house past 10 p.m. until she was 29 years old. Ironic considering the extreme nature of her work. I’ve always thought of Abramović as a bit of a rebel but it just goes to show ya, even badass artists succumb to the puritanical whims of Mommy dearest. On second thought, if my daughter was stabbing herself and lighting fires all over town, I might enforce a curfew, too…

Her work became less violent over the years, especially during the time she worked with an artist named Ulay (yes, like Cher). They were romantically and creatively involved, even going so far as to call themselves a “two-headed being.” A little creepy and codependent if you ask me. I think the duo is perfectly summed up by their performance Breathing In/Breathing Out in which they connected mouths and took in each other’s breath until they ran out of oxygen (you'd think she'd have learned with that fire incident). Seventeen minutes in and they both collapse, out cold from filling their lungs with carbon dioxide. Guess that’s what people in relationships mean when they say they need space to breathe.

If you’re craving more bizarro art world tales, wait until you hear how they broke up. The relationship, as you might expect from two such eccentric people, was rocky. So they decided to do the mature, responsible, adult thing and walked all the way across the Great Wall of China from opposite ends, meeting in the middle to say goodbye. Sort of beautiful and poetic, sort of barf-y. Like much performance art. In any case, they definitely take the cake for most dramatic breakup between two artists. At least for one that didn’t end in murder.

Nowadays, Abramović is an art world superstar. So much so that she was able to pass off staring at strangers as groundbreaking art. No, really. She just sat in the museum for a few months, and people waited as long as 12 hours to get some silent face time with the legend herself. Everyone swears it was really emotional and moving, but skeptics may be supressing an eye roll. Especially since Abramović is now doing all sorts of pop culture stuff that screams "celebrity" more than "artist". She was on the cover of ELLE magazine, she’s helping Lady Gaga with her next album cover, and Jay-Z used her as a publicity stunt for his song “Picasso Baby.” (Be warned: cringe-worthy dancing is imminent.) All of that could be forgiven if she didn’t also have a public friendship with perhaps the most annoying person to ever insert himself into art, James Franco. I'm just sayin', showing up at the Met Gala with James Franco on your arm is a far cry from passing out in a blazing fire star. Marina…you used to be so metal.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović (Serbian Cyrillic: Марина Абрамовић, pronounced [marǐːna abrǎːmoʋitɕ]; born November 30, 1946) is a Serbian conceptual and performance artist. Her work explores body art, endurance art, feminist art, the relationship between the performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Being active for over four decades, Abramović refers to herself as the "grandmother of performance art". She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on "confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body". In 2007, she founded the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI), a non-profit foundation for performance art.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Marina Abramović