1995,p 163.4 See
1995.5 In the one day
of the gap in
1987, pp 85-86.
the state demonstrated a respect for the autonomy of art, leavingit free from the manipulations which had befallen art in other eastern European
This separation of politics and art, however, was based on a mutual
that art was to remain harmless as a mode of socio-political critique.Abstract art was free, but neutralised as a radical practice, vulnerable to easy
Abramovič found this modernism to be fundamentally
in its hedonistic pursuit of sensuous pleasure and cognitive determinacy.
had no legitimate public role, no ability to crystallise or unify society. Her uniqueresponse to this predicament was based on the creation of performances rather
objects, exchanging painterly silence for bodily presence and ritualised action.She thus asserted a public role for art, drawing down the distinctions between
and life, investing her work with new meanings, and guaranting her right
make an avant-garde challenge to
the map of performance art, Abramovič, more
most of her
made of the genre an aesthetic form of prayer.
Her ritualisedself-injury was intended to produce states of consciousness which tested the limitsof human knowledge and endurance. Her close friend, the
artist, BenD'Armagnac, even died as the result of a physically stressful performance in NewYork in 1978;
Abramovič, similarly, nearly died on two occasions, such was theforce of the movement of art towards life. This
somewhat from the moresocial, psychoanalytic and philosophical intentions of much contemporary British
American performance, from artists such as Gilbert and George, Stuart
Joan Jonas. Abramovič, in this respect, comes at the end of a logic whichdematerialised art, thus committing herself to an extraordinary end-game.
art changed the ground rules of modernist discourse quite radically
the time. Bodies were real, whereas art was a symbolic code whichapproximated reality. Although essentially ignored in
were not to be crossed in the mid-1970s without disorienting established
In part, the artist used her body as proof of the
she claimedwere real. Based on video
there is certainly no doubting that theproof was all too real, sanguine and sincere. However, her performances evoke
knowledge which is difficult to substantiate despite the corporeal evidence. The
in this situation is left to experience a multitude of gaps:
and artist, between audience and God, between a disinterested aesthetic
and the distinct possibility that we might feel morally compelled
intervene in the performance. Both in conversation and in performance,Abramovič 'threatens' to involve us, forcing a collapse of libidinal, market andpower economies onto her body, while ironically remaining undemonstrativeregarding sex, money and politics.
was engrossed by the videos of early performances shown in the new MOMA
1977, we see her repeatedly
no clothes for
with a full audience, the flesh really smackingagainst the cold white concrete of an art
Blood trickles, but she is numb
language and body. In a photographic documentation of
The Lips of
1975, she carves the five-pointed red star of the
around her navelwith a razor blade while standing in a Belgrade public square. If one suspects
she is about to cause a public commotion, there may be good reason. Herperformances can become 'crowd crystals', to use the phrase of Canetti.
Abramovič attracts a crowd by providing an opportunity to unburden spirituallyagonies rationalised otherwise. In her early work in
she offered her
a unified presence which radically rewrote the predominant conceptionsof what Zabel calls materialism and humanism, and what Pejic refers to as the
D o w nl o ad ed A t : 19 :30 17 F eb r u a r y 2011