We broke the code and made our way above 14th street last night to see Marina Abramovic‘s performance at the Guggenheim. The fourth in her Seven Easy Pieces (a Donna Karan shout-out?) series (five covers, one repeat, and one new), she performed her own seven-hour version of Joseph Beuys’ “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare.” We arrived around seven or so, which meant she had been covered in honey and gold leaf on her head, shackled with an iron sole on her right foot, and cradling and whispering to a dead hare for just two hours. Seemed like she was just hitting her stride, though maybe a bit too hard to the right. Sidekick pointed out the mannered nature of the performance, and we had to agree. The other pieces she had covered so far, which had been taped (documentation of these ephemeral performance art pieces being a large part of the artists’ concern) and were showing on the wall next to her stage — Bruce Nauman’s Body Pressure, Vito Acconci’s Seedbed, and VALIE EXPORT’s Action Pants: Genital Panic and Gina Pane’s The Conditioning — had some more primal element, while Beuys’ was, we found in her recreation, far more explicitly (and therefore self-consciously) performative.
Tonight she’s repeating her own Lips of Thomas (1975), which she describes:
I slowly eat 1 kilo of honey with a silver spoon.
I slowly drink 1 liter of red wine out of a crystal glass.
I break the glass with my right hand.
I cut a five point star in my stomach with a razor blade.
I violently whip myself until I no longer feel any pain.
I lay down on a cross made of ice blocks.
The heat of a suspended space heater pointed at my stomach causes the cut star to bleed.
The rest of my body begins to freeze.
I remain on the ice cross for 30 minutes until the audience interrupts the piece by removing the ice blocks from underneath.
The original piece lasted two hours, but as with the others (all of which were originally shorter), she’s extending it to seven.
We’re going to try and go for the whole thing tonight, an effort that seems ridiculous in the face of the fact that we just have to watch, while she has to go through it. As Muscles so elegantly put it, we’re intrigued, and mortified. Which only means that Abramovic must be doing something right.
Guggenheim, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th, 5-midnight.