Abramović was raised in Yugoslavia by parents who fought as Partisans in World War II and were later employed in the communist government of Josip Broz Tito. In 1965 she enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade to study painting. Eventually, however, she became interested in the possibilities of performance art, specifically the ability to use her body as a site of artistic and spiritual exploration. After completing postgraduate studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1972, Abramović conceived a series of visceral performance pieces that engaged her body as both subject and medium. In Rhythm 10 (1973), for instance, she methodically stabbed the spaces between her fingers with a knife, at times drawing blood. In Rhythm 0 (1974) she stood immobile in a room for six hours along with 72 objects, ranging from a rose to a loaded gun, that the audience was invited to use on her however they wished. These pieces provoked controversy not only for their perilousness but also for Abramović’s occasional nudity, which would become a regular element of her work thereafter.
Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful is one example of how, in the early years of performance art, female artists used their own bodies to challenge the institution of art and the notion of beauty. Marina has said in an interview that during the 1970s, “if the woman artist would apply make-up or put [on] nail polish, she would not have been considered serious enough.”
Relation in Time: 17 hour performance
Breathing In/Breathing Out:
‘We are kneeling face to face, pressing our mouths together. Our noses are blocked with cigarette filters. I am breathing in oxygen. I am breathing out carbon dioxide.’
In their performance piece Breathing In/Breathing Out Marina Abramovic and Ulay blocked their noses with cigarette filters and clamped their mouths tightly together, breathing in and out each other’s air. After seventeen minutes they both fell to the floor unconscious. The viewers could sense the tension through the sound of their breathing, which was augmented through microphones attached to their chests. Is it a beautiful romantic gesture or a comment on how relationships absorb and destroy an individual?
“Something tender and violent at the same time emerges from the performance: the couple are decided to stick together despite the effort, the danger, the damage; but as is the case with human relations of this kind of intensity, they end up with violence, pain, and a part of each other ‘dead’. It is the idea of interdependency portrayed to its extreme.” Interartive
Standing across from one another in slated position. Looking each other in the eye. I hold a bow and Ulay holds the string with the arrow pointing directly to my heart. Microphones attached to both hearts recording the increasing number of heart beats.