The faces of Marina Abramovic’s character: artist, celebrity and an everyday person

Marina Abramovic is one of the most famous contemporary artists and she is also a celebrity. I was first drawn to Abramovic’s raw and sometimes extreme performance works in my art school days and have been following her career ever since so I was happy to learn she was involved in No Intermission, a 7-day performance project at Carré Amsterdam. Within the programming of the event, I signed in to a panel of performance artists moderated by Abramovic as I thought that would allow me to see the artist as a public persona. Luckily, the event was so much more than what I expected and it paid off waking up at 5 am on a Sunday to make it on time.

From the first moment of the discussion, I noticed how present the artist was and how she was listening to what the participants and audience had to say, something not all common these days. At one point one of the attendees, who is also a talented writer, joined in the conversation and read aloud her reflections on the performance project. Munganyende’s comments were both poetic and deep and made all of us, including Marina, connect to the shared experience of trauma which was also an underlying theme of the whole exhibition. “Trauma is not an identity but sometimes we forget who we are outside of suffering,” the young woman of  Rwandese origin said. In short, Marina made the event about the experiences and work of others instead of about her, an internationally known artist. Surprisingly, Abramovic put herself out here, she let go of her facade and let the audience see a humble, approachable, and vulnerable being.

This experience got me thinking about the many roles we all play in our lives. In Abramovic’s case, she is willingly part of the celebrity culture that we live in. As such, I witnessed how her fan base, which was in the audience, is more interested in securing an “autograph” or a picture than in what she had to say.  I guess this is the price of fame as admirers want to see “the character” and not the everyday version of you. Bizarrely, all this connects to Abramovic’s own practice as her intention with the whole performance event, which her institute put together, was to blur the boundaries between performance art and theater. I think that, while through her performances Marina has succeeded in creating an alter ego, she sometimes finds it hard for people to differentiate the person from “the character” she often plays. Marina is not alone in this as we all offer different versions of ourselves and often play parts in the theater of life. What could be revealed if we all dared to bare it all?

Author Dima Bondarenko

Editor Constanza Ontiveros, Art History PhD

Jan. 17, 2023

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