To create this “Death self,” the two performers devised a piece in which they connected their mouths and took in each other’s exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen. Seventeen minutes after the beginning of the performance they both fell to the floor unconscious, their lungs having filled with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual’s ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it.
I read this paragraph about Marina Abramović and Uwe Laysiepen on many tumblr blogs. It had been infinitely reblogged, it seems, but I wanted to know who first wrote it. After frantic clicking for half an hour, I realised it was from Wikipedia.I read on, captivated by the work of Marina Abramović: her experiments with the body and extreme pain seem brutal. In one of her most famous performances, she allowed the audience to do anything to her as she stood still for six hours. On the table next to her on the stage were 72 objects, including things like a feather, rose thorns, scissors and a gun with a single bullet. The audience, at first conservative, later became aggressive by her passiveness. Normal people, like you and me. She said, “The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” … “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.” She was also my first encounter with a ‘performance artist’ who wasn’t a magician or dancer. The exploration of the body, mind and concepts of pain, solitude, free will without resorting to verbal philosophy is something I have never thought of. The idea has taken root and I can’t get it out. It is doing things to me that I can’t fully understand. Maybe I’ll write another time about it on my personal blog. One of her later pieces is The Artist is Present – she sat still for 736 hours in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and invited the audience to sit opposite her and look at her. Some people cried, some got angry, some saw something divine.
When I was talking about Marina Abramović with her, I said: ‘In a way, none of us will ever know what it is to be human the way Marina knows.’And she said, ‘Because we are too scared. This is nice, and for most of us, enough.’