Performative artist Marina Abramovic’s latest piece has gained her a place in the Royal Academy of Art, where she will be the first
woman to have a dedicated solo show in the main gallery.
Abramovic is known for her controversial and psychologically provoking pieces. One of her most known performances “The Artist Is Present” in 2010 entailed a seven-hundred-hour silent opera. For seven hours a day, six days a week Abramovic sat in a plain chair, in front of a plain table with bright lights in the Museum of Modern Art’s towering atrium. This performance is one of the longest art pieces to exist and had one of the largest audiences go to watch it. The Abramovic Retrospective, which included the “The Art Is Present”, was visited by five hundred million people. The visitors could sit opposite Abramovic for minutes, hours or even a whole day if they wanted, while onlookers watched and waited for their turn.
This performance is not the most unusual of her solo work. Abramovic has made some risky artistic decisions in the past. For another notable performance, she stood silent for six hours in a gallery and said that visitors could do whatever they pleased to her. One visitor held a gun to her neck, her eyes filled with tears, but she did not flinch or move. Her performances aim to provoke, question, tempt and in some cases disturb her audiences.
Abramovic’s new solo show in the Royal Academy of Art follows this line of controversy. It is her “Imponderabilia” piece that will be the showstopper of her solo show in autumn 2020. Young men and women will be recruited to stand opposite each other in
the nude to form a naked living doorway. Visitors will have to squeeze through the naked people to use the doorway.
This has sparked many questions in people’s minds. Do you make eye contact? Do you go slowly through the doorway? Or is speed the mask of discomfort? Should we even feel discomfort? Or should we feel comfortable with the nudity before us? Who knows? That’s what Abramovic wants her audience to discover. Andrea Tarsia, the show’s curator, said the work was a simple gesture which “proposed a confrontation with nakedness, with gender, with sexuality, with desire”.
The show of the naked living doorway was originally performed by Marina Abramovic and her then partner, Ulay, in Bologna in
1977. At its original performance, the police were called to the scene because it was so controversial. In today’s modern age, it is
unlikely to arouse the attention of the police, however, it is likely to grab the attention of Londoners and people all over the world.
The solo show will not only feature the naked living doorway it will also showcase the retrospective journey of Abramovic showing
more than fifty works from across her career. Her works will be showcased using videos, photographs, installations and recreations. However, unlike her 2010 performance, Abramovic will not be in the galleries for the show’s duration, though she will be in London. Tim Marlow, the Royal Academies artistic director said that “her concern at the moment is as much looking forward to the legacy of how performance art can exist when the performer is no longer around,” he said. “Her main concern is how her own work will be reperformed, as theatre is, as music, in the future.”
Marina Abramovic has been testing the limits of her mental and physical capabilities for more than four decades and now, being 72, is taking a slight backseat to observe what will be her legacy. Her desire to preserve the performance means that Abramovic will oversee workshops in which young performers will be selected and prepared for their role as the doorway, perhaps one of the
oddest roles that can be had.
Nakedness is not the only thing to be explored in this show. Another highlight will be “The Lovers”, which was created by Abramovic and Ulay to mark their relationships end in 1988. The pair walked for 90 days from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, until they met in the middle and ceremoniously parted ways. This piece explores ideas about devotion, love and commitment even when relationships come to an end.
Another work “Rhythm 5”, originally performed in Yugoslavia at the beginning of her performative career, features a large star
with wood shaving soaked in petrol. At the original performance, Abramovic cut off her hair and nails and threw them into the fire. Afterwards, she laid down in the star until she passed out from the fumes. Obviously, this will only be reflected upon and not recreated. Even still it provokes many interesting questions.
The London shows announcement has taken the art industry by storm and it seems to be worth a visit. So, make sure you leave a day or two free in autumn of 2020 for Marina Abramovic’s retrospective journey into sex, gender, desire and nakedness. See for
yourself how your body and mind react to the naked living doorway.