Contemporaneous Extension

Marina Openmovic

Had to post these interviews in working on my HAHA Magazine article on the Marina Abramovic exhibition at the MoMA.

Everything from ambitious dream art projects to more personal myths debunked are revealed in this conversation between Abramovic and Laurie Anderson, a performance artist and musician with a career as varied and extensive as pant trends since 1975. It’s a playful conversation with some really insightful notations of her process and resultant outlook after such an evolution in her work and sensibilities.

A few good excerpts:

“MA: …In performance, it’s a monologue, and in this monologue you create so many spaces that we can project onto, so many images, one after another. What’s also special is that the sound of the voice will create certain vibrations. Sometimes it’s not even the word but the space in between the words, a long pause that works magic. A monologue becomes something beyond language; it becomes so strong. The moment it becomes a conversation, I think, we try to be clever, we try to construct things, and then everything falls apart again. But with the monologue, emotions come in a different way.”

“MA: I want to live a very long time. This is my obsession. I want to live to be over 100. My grandmother died at 103 and the mother of my grandmother was 116 when she died. I have this idea that after 100 something else happens. When we are young and even now, though I am not that young, there is this idea of emotions and always some kind of suffering involved. I’d like so much to reach the point of nonattachment, of nonsuffering, when you really know things are happening because they have already happened to you hundreds of times before. You can laugh about it all. To have this wisdom and distance and peace!

LA: How do you think you can get there?

MA: Oh—lots of goat yogurt!

LA: (laughter) I mean to detachment?

MA: You don’t take things personally. Even if you love someone, you let them be. And if they leave you, still you love them, because attachment creates such a suffering. This is basic.

LA: Buddhism 101.”

Marina Abramovic by Laurie Anderson


This interview is from 1978, featuring Marina AND Ulay, her lover of thirteen years, published in FlashArt. They discuss the direct reasoning for ‘Art Vital,’ a more optimistic, centered practice stemming from meeting each other and recognizing the potential for unity in the universe, and thus living. It’s wonderful to witness not only their interaction in print, but also get to the inside of their conceptual work early on. Despite the notoriously chemical attraction of their relationship, they debunk any emphasis on feminism or man-v-woman that followed them throughout much of their collaboration. In recognizing the differences in their respective earlier works and the altered insinuations, the progressive motifs are lucid and progressive. Despite the stress on lacking any specific philosophy, I may have underestimated the fluency of their performative understanding.


HK: So you don’t mind physical pain or other unpleasant physical feelings. It’s not important at all for you?

MA: More important is why we do it. It’s like an operation, when they cut you with a knife, but at the same time the operation’s positive. The knife is necessary for your health. Early in my work the pain was almost the message itself. I was cutting myself, whipping myself, and my body couldn’t take it anymore. I was really at the end, if I hadn’t stopped I wouldn’t be here any more. Now with Ulay my work is more constructive in an optimistic way.

U: Our work is real-life drama. Everybody needs energy just to do his daily job. In our art we want to reach what I call ‘autonomic’ energy. The energetic reserve everybody has. Like a chicken, if you cut off its head, it can still fly away; this is autonomic energy.”

MA: Once in Yugoslavia I went to a hospital and asked a doctor, “What’s the most dangerous operation?” He told me that it was the operation on the brain. And I watched for six hours the cutting and sewing with needles and thread. And what I thought at the time was what we do in art: it’s not really dangerous — it’s only illusion! Artists like Ulay and I are very far from real feelings and intuitions. People living in the countryside however are much nearer to the body, to danger, to existence. Living in the cities, we indeed are protected by everything, which makes a confrontation with nature almost impossible.”

Marina Abramovic and Ulay by Helena Kontova


1 Comment so far
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Some nice insight into YOUR process.

Firstly: “a career as varied and extensive as pant trends since 1975” is v nice.

Secondly, re: chickens still flying with their heads cut off… Can chickens fly without their heads cut off (still attached, functioning as a head/brain normally functions)? I don’t think so, right? I knew we couldn’t trust Ulay!

Comment by senhor jose

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