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Extreme artist's mirror

Walk Through Walls
Forfatter: Marina Abramovic
Forlag: Penguin, 2016
Marina Abramovic's autobiography is as uncompromising and confrontational as her performance art.


The criticism of the 70 year-old Serbian-born Marina Abramovic's memoirs is very telling. While The Guardians reviewer Rachel Cooke praises it as "weirdly mesmeric" and remarkably honest, the book is regularly slaughtered by New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner, who thinks it is pretentious and has a self-help aspect that diminishes the value of her art. I think she evokes such strong reactions because she writes about an art that is overwhelmingly confrontational, and because her physical and mental transgressions can seem alien and potentially threatening to an average Netflix-watching and cardboard-drinking western individual.

Garner rejects Abramovic's spiritual openness, which has led her from many a monastic monastery in Tibet, through shamans and ayahuasca treatments in Brazil, to a strong belief in the power of dreams, and of course – of art. Ever since she was a child in Titos Yugoslavia, she experienced that "just as with my dreams, the reality of the books I read was stronger than the reality around me". Through her works of art and experience, she questions the foundations of Western thinking, namely the belief in science and rationality, and the exaltation of the ego. With no understanding of this premise, it is no wonder that Abramovic's performance art appears to be little more than a pompous form of self-harm.

To live extremely. Marina Abramovic has lived a life that has been extreme in several ways, and there are times I almost don't believe what I read – such as her mother being so manically tidy that she could wake her daughter at night because she slept "messily", or that She has met people who can hold their breath for hours or perform ritual self-harm without feeling pain. But then, much of her extreme life is actually documented. For example, in the award-winning documentary about The Artist is Present, a performance that involved Abramovic sitting perfectly still on a chair for eight hours every day for three months at MoMa, while anyone who wanted to sit in a chair placed a few feet in front of her.

Abramovic's mother was so manic clean she could wake her daughter up at night because she slept "messily".

The world-renowned performance artist says that the pain she experienced Thomas Lips, where she used, among other things, a knife to cut out a star on her own stomach, "I was walking through and coming out to the other side." A common feature of her performance art is that she shows the audience what it means to overcome fear and pain, so they can learn from her experiences. This is where self-help comes in, but there are several reasons why one should not reduce Walk Through Walls to a self-help book.

A redeeming truth. First, a truth can be simple without being trivial or indulging in the pleasure and benefit-maximizing culture that conventional self-help books are a part of. That's the case with Abramovic's art and shadow writer James Kaplan's portrayal of it. Like when she talks about the project The Lovers, where she and ex-girlfriend Ulay start from each side of the Great Wall and go all the way until they meet in the middle. They had originally intended to get engaged when they met, but during the planning, the relationship faded, and they decided to use the project as a farewell: “Really this huge distance we will just end – it's very human in a way. It's more dramatic than actually just having this romantic story of lovers. Because in the end you are really alone, whatever you do. ” I think this would have worked poorly to market as self-help, but really it's a more authentic form of self-help than the one found in Cappelen Damm's pastel-colored books. The truth is redeeming, even when it is not optimal, which is why we need the art.

Identical brain waves. Second, despite her lavish dresses and hexagonal New York houses, Marina Abramovic has understood the importance of getting rid of the ego. It is really a wonder that she has managed to get so rich, because when the performance art flourished in the 70s it was just as a backlash to the realization of art. The performance artists wanted to show that art is an experience that transcends borders, and that is the aspect Abramovic has cultivated.

The truth is redeeming, even when it is not optimal, which is why we need the art.

She writes about an intense energy that arises in interaction with the audience, and can point to research that should also convince skeptics. American and Russian scientists showed interest in the strong emotions The Artist is Present aroused in people, and they decided to measure the brainwaves in a copy of Abramovic's performance. What they discovered was that the brain waves were synchronizing and creating identical patterns. This finding is threatening because so much of our identity is linked to the image of ourselves as autonomous, as reflected in the gasoline of Western consumer culture, the idea of ​​a image. The The Artist is Present Marina Abramovic acted as a mirror image of the audience's emotions, and the strategies they usually used to hide them became inaccessible. In the pictures it is clear how painful this experience was for most, yet people stood in line for hours to be part of this project. Not to "get the best", but to get in touch with something bigger than his ego.

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