Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful
Marina Abramović (*1946, Serbia) is one of the artists who made a decisive impact on the history of performance art and on the criticism of the representation of the female body in Western culture. The testing of physical and mental limits (sometimes at the risk of her own life), the intensity and endurance of her performances and the creation of extreme situations that also involve the audience are just some of the characteristic elements of her artistic practice to this day. Between 1979 and 1988, Abramović worked together with the German artist Ulay, with whom she created some of her most famous and influential works. In 2005, she completed the project Seven Easy Pieces, which comprised the re-enactment of six historical performances by other artists (Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, VALIE EXPORT, Gina Pane, Bruce Nauman) as well as herself, and a new work that she created for the occasion. This project questions the conditions of performance art as a time-based medium and as a form of cultural transmission, staking a claim that performance should be understood as an active part of art history and art criticism.
In one of her groundbreaking works, Marina Abramović positions herself right in front of the camera, addressing the viewers directly. The image reveals only her face and hands, concentrating her corporeality in these two elements. She continually repeats an action regarded as typically feminine, reinterpreting it in the context of art history through her performance: The artist combs her hair forcefully, without a pause, for more than 50 minutes. During this time, she repeats the sentence “art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful” like a mantra. The constant repetition
of the words and the action give the work a sustained intensity that puts the artist and the audience into a trance-like state, in which overcoming the physical pain frees the body and mind from the conventions of Western society and culture. MM
Courtesy Marina Abramović & Nederlands Instituut voor Mediakunst