A table, seventy-two objects, and a woman.
Ongoing performance reproduction
Do you remember that episode of Sex and the City, when Carrie met the famed Russian artist Aleksandr Petrovsky at an art gallery opening?
The two met for the first time during the performance of a woman living on a maisonette in the gallery for 16 days without eating or drinking. Carrie, who loved more brand shoes than provocative forms of art, was sceptic and believed that the performance was not so serious. Petrovsky, then, proposed her to go back to the gallery together by late night to verify if the woman was still there or not. At 3 am, they saw the performance artist still vigilant in the gallery room, without food or drinks, staring amused at the two unexpected visitors.
This memorable episode for the lovers of the series has been inspired by Marina Abramović, who did the same performance, titled The House with the Ocean View, at Sean Kelly Gallery in 2002. The Serbian artist indeed, particularly popular and awarded in the early 2000s, is worldwide renowned for her impressive, sometimes disturbing, art performances.
Today in London, we can witness a reproduction of one her most acclaimed exhibitions: the Tate Modern is hosting Rhythm 0, a performance originally showed in Naples at Studio Morra in 1974.
The performance, at the core of Tate’s section “Art of Participation”, consists in a long-rectangular table, covered by a white cloth, where are exposed seventy-two different objects, including a gun, knifes, shoes, a mirror, a whip, flowers, a brush, a newspaper. Above this table slides are projected on the wall showing images of the original performance: the artist was standing next to the table for six hours and visitors were meant to use the objects on her as they wish. Then, the artist affirmed that sometimes it resulted to be very risky as people acted aggressively by using objects towards her.
Abramović reverses the role of the artist and the observer. The artist is no more the one who produces art, but she is the art itself, she fully objectified herself by turning into the seventy-third prop. And we, as viewers, are not more passive audience, silently contemplating the performance, but we are invited to actively participate in creation of art.
I visited the exhibition with my best friend and we have been particularly impressed by the variety of the exhibit props. We asked ourselves what the public could have done with knifes, feather or flowers on the artist…
The slides display different shots with the artist, at the center behind the table, surrounded by the visitors and props. Sometimes, people give her flowers while she is sitting on a chair, holding photos, and showing her nude breast. But in the most dramatic pictures, one throws a glass of water on her head or others from the audience fasten her body with chains putting a knife between her knees.
I believe that, entirely entrusting her body to the visitors and letting them play with pain and relief, Abramović wants to prove that art is a conjuncture between the two. She revealed how every art manifestation is a “memento mori”, an embodiment of life and death of the author, that performs both creation and destruction.
Marina Abramović created a provocative and diversified performance, sometimes strong, sometimes more emotional and romantic, that makes you reflect on how people manage their chance of freely contributing in the production of meanings.
Should I go?
If you have the chance to visit the Tate Modern, absolutely take some time to explore this great example of the participatory art.
Rating: 8/9 (considering the enjoyment, the room’s design, the social context provided by surrounding pieces of different artists, the price)