Thomas Lips, 1975, 1993, 2005

Another outgoing performance art by the eccentric Marina Abramovic was her production of “Thomas Lips” 1975. In this performance art Marina uses a razor blade to cut the shape of a star into her stomach. Marina performs this piece naked laying on a table in front of the audience. Once her cutting was complete, Marina cries in front of the audience and blots her cut with a towel while listening to a Russian folk song. She then laid down on blocks of ice and later would kneel and whip herself repeatedly. Inflicting pain was one of Marina’s signature traits in her developments of performance art. The audience expected nothing less. Once Marina was done with her self inflictions she got up and ate one spoon full of honey and had a glass of red wine and one would think that she was implying the end of a climax with peaceful ending. That was hardly the case when Marina repeated the sequence of events in various order until midnight. The medium and content of this performance art still meets the overall theme of choice for Marina Abramovic’s work in that she will expose no limitations on the manipulations of the body.

In this performance Marina makes several observations become apparent to her audience in a live performance. This has a larger impact on audience because they can actually witness first-hand the self destruction of another human-being, probably less impacting through words than to visualize in real life. In an interview with Pitchaya Sudbanthad, Marina makes her views on pain and self infliction known to the pubic: “There’s no such kind of a logical ending in dealing with pain. I create a structure in which I can go far into the physical limits that a body can take. I don’t want to die. That is not the purpose. I want to experience the edge and how much I can take to this edge.” Marina summarizes her views on pain pretty well throughout this interview and makes it apparent that pain can be looked at through the eyes of art as being beautiful. In this way of thinking I believe that she wants society and her audience to understand that once again art is her ability to influence the way society thinks. It is understandable that one may not be able to change the way someone thinks, but you can at least introduce them to ways of thinking that would be open for interpretation. That is all Marina is trying to accomplish in these performance arts.

This performance relates to some of the neo conceptual styles of Tracey Emin. Tracey is obviously not producing a self inflicting performance art but she uses some of the same styles of erotic material and sexual gesture in her work. This can be especially noted in Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” where a bed is surrounded by condoms, alcohol bottles, blood stains, and other sexual innuendo. It is possible to make relations to other performance art but I would rather emphasize the unique and genuine style of performance that Marina offers. There really weren’t many other performance artists that offered such an exposed performance made available to society to witness.

Archer, Michael. Art since 1960 new edition. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

Heartney, Eleanor. Art & Today. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Inc, 2008.

Neatherlands Media Art Institute. "Marina Abramovic Biography". 14 Nov. 2009. .

Rhythm 10, 1973

“Rhythm 10” by Marina Abramovic was first presented in Edinburgh in 1973. This performance art definitely lives up to the expectations and environment of art Marina Abramovic creates. In her performance she has a sheet of white paper, twenty knives, and two cassette recorders. Marina will kneel down, play her cassette recorder, pick up each knife one by one and keep stabbing the knife over and over again down towards her left hand until she cuts herself with every knife. Marina will carry out the sequence again and finish the video installation with a playback of the dual rhythm on her recorded cassette. This game derived from Russia and Abramovic had always been a displayer of ritual and gesture. The reason Marina repeats a second sequence of the stabbings is because she wants to display the need for the mistakes to be replicated, or to cancel out. It is an interesting piece of work that Marina Abramovic allows the society to view. The self infliction of pain is still the main theme that most viewers will take away from this piece, but there is another message in the material the artist is portraying. Marina Abramovic’s main purpose of the performance was the effort to make one notice the attempt of joining the present with the past. This is made apparent in her imperfections of linking the second wave of stabbings perfectly with the first.

There are probably hundreds of different messages and meanings that could be taken from Rhythm 10. Abramovic has several strong themes that are usually evident to most of her audience. She shows her ability to be consciously in taking pain while always attempting to conquer the fear of death. Her art performance in this instance could even be inspirational to some. Various audiences could consider Marina’s mental, emotional, and physical numbness to be typical behavior in situations that she portrays. Society wants to believe in what they think is normal, but once again Marina Abramovic uses her compassion for pushing her body to the limit to show the simple comparison of present and past. It gives society no choice but to accept there are even artistic messages that can be taken from self mutilation.

I think it goes without saying that Marina Abramovic’s “Rhythm 10” and many of her other works have their strongest roots in the styles and traits of the avant-garde. In the early 1970’s Marina couldn’t of possibly known the reaction to society her extreme performance arts would produce. She was very experimental at first and could only hope her deep desire to express art in possibly the most extreme way in nineteenth century would be successful. Her experimentation and alternative way of producing video installations and performance art were indeed successful. Marina Abramovic could be compared to Jackson Pollock in the comparison of their great contributions to the introduction of new groups, movements, and styles to art. Jackson Pollock was to abstract expressionism as Marina Abramovic was to installation and video art.

Archer, Michael. Art since 1960 new edition. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

Heartney, Eleanor. Art & Today. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Inc, 2008.

Balkan Erotic Epic, 2005

One of Marina Abramavic’s more recent works was the “Balkan Erotic Epic.” This multi-channel installation work was displayed at La Fabrica Gallery in Spain, from January 10, 2007 thru February 24, 2007. This piece is based off of Marina’s research about the Balkan folk culture and its use of erotic. Marina says, Balkan Erotic Epic "Is part of the research into Balkan popular culture and its use of eroticism. Through eroticism, humans attempt to make them selves equal with the gods. In folklore, the woman marries the sun and the man marries the moon to preserve the secret of creative energy; through eroticism, humans can get in touch with the indestructible cosmic forces." Through this work it is shown that Balkan’s believe that male and female genitals have a very important function in the fertility and agricultural rites of Balkan people. La Fabrica Gallery displayed the following videos included in The Balkan Erotic Epic: “Marina Abramovic Massaging Breast, 2005”, “Woman With Skull, 2005”. These video installations were comprised of Balkan peasants explicitly contributing to Marina Abramovic’s display of erotic actions in an almost ritualistic way. The body has always been Marina Abramovic’s most used medium and subject.

In this work Abramovic is responding to culture, society, and herself. Marina had done quite a bit of research about the Pagan culture and the Balkan way of life extending all the way back to the fourteenth century. Through her research and interests she found out some rituals from the nineteenth century. After viewing the art one could understand that the rituals are of an ancient nature. Marina does an excellent job in displaying such controversial material to society because it is her intention to expose society to her art and let the viewer discover the body in a nude and fun way. These rituals could be used by males or females as tools for: fertilization, communications with Gods, and for healing. Majority of society was not exposed to such rituals and Marina gets the satisfaction of presenting such works of spontaneous nature. This is one more act of love for Marina Abramovic, one more gift to society because as an artist she believes she must love unconditionally.

In some ways Marina Abramovic resembles Rebecca Horn because just like Marina, Rebecca Horn has shown through her work that she uses her body as her medium. There is also resemblance in Monica Sjoo’s work of “God Giving Birth, 1968”. Through research I have discovered that Marina has been labeled the “grandmother of performance art.” This is appropriate because there are very few artists who can truly come close in comparison of replicating resemblance to Marina’s distinct and exotic content found in her performances. Personally and initially, after spending time on research and investigating this particular work I felt that it was very controversial and could be offensive towards viewers. However that is only a personal opinion, Marina Abramovic describes the content of her work as testing the limits of her body.

Archer, Michael. Art since 1960 new edition. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

Heartney, Eleanor. Art & Today. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Inc, 2008.

Indepth Art News. “Marina Abramovic: Balkan Erotic Epic.” 19 Nov. 2009 .

2007-2009. Oxford University Press. 15 Nov. 2009 <>.