press release

From 17 June Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is showing a major retrospective exhibition of one of the central figures of body and performance art, Marina Abramović (b. 1946 in Belgrade). For fifty years the artist has been reacting to the world around her, and has inscribed herself in the history of art with physically and mentally demanding performances, ranging from the violent and risky actions of the 1970s to quieter exchanges of energy and encounters with the public.

Louisiana’s retrospective exhibition embraces the oeuvre from Abramović’s early concept sketches, paintings and sound pieces to presentations of the artist’s performances up until today. Certain works will be re-performed live by others during the exhibition.

Abramović has established a radical, uncompromising practice with her own body and energy as her primary material, although the works as such are not intimately concerned with herself. Often the works consist of very few elements or a simple action that is not clearly tied to any one particular narrative or agenda. The works are thus left open for many interpretations of both political and existential character – in the 1970s and today. A woman screaming is a woman screaming. The reasons may be many. Then and now. Discharges and exchanges of energy run as a consistent thread throughout the oeuvre. Cleaning and purging – physically, mentally and symbolically – is also a recurring theme, with tools as different as fire, screaming, soapy water, minerals, time and silence. Catharsis, rite of passage, transformation.

Abramović graduated in 1970 as a painter from the academy of art in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia, but quickly abandoned painting in favour of a practice that took place in real time and space in direct encounters between artist and audience. With her sound and performance works she was a formative part of Belgrade’s experimental avant-garde scene until 1976, when she moved to Amsterdam and embarked on a close partnership and collaboration for the next twelve years with the German photographer and performance artist Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen, b. 1943). Abramović then continued solo and in 1997 won the main prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Biennale for the work Balkan Baroque, which was a direct response to the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia, the war and the massacres in Bosnia, but equally a picture of the horror and pain, atonement, guilt, shame, stench, death, suffering and madness of war in general.

In recent years the artist has mainly made her mark with long durational performance projects in which the audience has increasingly become the true principal figure – as was the case with the three-month long performance The Artist is Present at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010. With this project the artist, and perhaps even performance art as a genre, reached a wide public.

In 1990-91 Louisiana showed the exhibition The Lovers – The Great Wall Walk, which presented Abramović’s and Ulay’s last joint work of the same title, as well as individual works that had grown out of the project. Several of the artists’ works were also featured in Louisiana’s group exhibition NowHere in 1996.

The exhibition Marina Abramović – The Cleaner has been created in a dialogue with the artist and organized by Moderna Museet, Stockholm, in collaboration with Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk. It is the first major retrospective presentation of the artist’s work in Europe. The exhibition continues to Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn.