Marina Abramović (Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1946) is one of the most authoritative representatives of international performance art, doyenne of all forms of expression bound up with the body and derived from it, constantly renewed by the artist until the most recent years. She represents the unique case of an artist who over the last forty years has unceasingly used performance as her privileged medium of expression, embodying it in all its forms and inevitably determining its history, outcomes and developments, but at the same time conditioning and intensifying them until she deliberately demolishes their boundaries.
The relation between art and life is a fundamental feature of her work, in which her existential, artistic development is closely bound up with the osmotic relationship between the artist’s history and the history of performance that accompanies her. Think of the radical actions dating from the first half of the 1970s, in which the artist repeatedly pushed her physical and psychological limits to the extreme, threatening her own life (Rhythm 5, Student Youth Center, Belgrade, 1972; Rhythm 0, Studio Morra, Naples, 1975). Think of her long association with Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen), a luminous synthesis of a complete convergence between art and life, a symbiotic fusion of intents that remains to date an isolated case in the history of the performing arts (Relation in Space, 37th Venice Biennale, 1976; Imponderabilia, GAM, Bologna, 1977; The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk, 1989). Then think of her painful recounting of Balkan myths and dramas, a path punctuated by works ranging from the tragic tone of Balkan Baroque (which won the artist the Leone d’Oro at the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997) and the satirical Balkan Erotic Epic (2005).
In more recent years, Abramović has focused on an “ethic of recreation” (emblematic in this respect were the Seven Easy Pieces at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 2005), investigating the conceptual complexity of “re-enactment” and “re-performance”, and the transition to a more meditative approach, seeking an energetic expansion of perception, which has led to the development of works such as The Artist Is Present (MoMA, New York, 2010), The Abramović Method (PAC, Milan, 2012), 512 Hours (Serpentine Gallery, London, 2014), Common Ground (SESC Pompeia, São Paulo, 2015).
The Kitchen project (2009), with the video Carrying the Milk in the collection, is set in the space of a kitchen that was part of a convent formerly run by Carthusian nuns and modernized under the Franco regime. The work was created as homage to St. Teresa of Avila, who experienced levitation in a kitchen. The video is an extract from an action that lasted twelve hours, in which the artist resemanticized the ecstatic device of suspension and mystical elevation of the mind, understood as the full development of the potential and natural qualities present in the individual. Abramović has a long-standing relationship with the city of Naples, culminating in recent years in the performance Cleaning the Mirror (2004) at the Galleria Lia Rumma.