So, About That Self-Flagellation

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It’s all Abramovic Abramovic Abramovic over here, for which we would apologize except, seriously, this is probably one of the few times we’re going to be seeing this much performance art at once. We’re still catching up from last night’s Guggenheim event, but we have a few immediate impressions.

First, we were surprised that there was no apparent order to the performance. We thought, from the instructions we’d read, that she was going to eat all the honey, then drink all the wine, then carve the whole pentagram, then lie on the ice, etc, etc. Turns out it was seven hours of seemingly random bits of self-flagellation, -mutilation, etc. She didn’t finish the honey (around 11:35 or so Sidekick measured a remaining three inches), or, Muscles pointed out, the wine, but we feel like total jerks for pointing that out given that she did ritualistically carve a five-pointed star into her abdomen, whip herself until she “felt no pain,” and ended up experiencing what looked to us like pretty extreme muscle spasms from the ice block crucifixion thing. By the end of it it seemed that she was completely inhabiting the stage and each of its five stations–whipping post, honey and wine, nationalism, razor, and ice block/space heater–almost like a home.

We started keeping track of everything, but for (rare) brevity, we’ll just include the first complete cycle:

5:03 we arrive, marina’s sitting on stage behind a table
5:10 someone else says to her friend “this is boring”
5:13 marina starts eating honey
5:18 opens wine, pours into a glass, takes a sip
5:22 takes a razor blade, stands at the edge of the stage

We’ll give you the option to jump to more razor blades, blood, and Willem Dafoe.


5:23 puts razor blade to her stomach, audience is really freaked out. like, really really really freaked out. people want to look, but not really, but can’t look away, no one knows how deep she’s going to cut, or how fast
5:24 first cut done, audience looks a little shocked
5:28 puts razor blade down
5:29 puts cloth to the cut, dripping blood makes marks
5:30 puts on shoes, green hat, picks up stick
5:31 folk song plays, she starts to tear, lip quivers, she sobs
5:33 song ends, takes off shoes and hat, puts down stick
5:34 lies on ice block underneath a space heater aimed at the cut
5:36 gets off ice block, starts whipping herself
5:37 sits back down at her honey/wine table
5:38 the idiot who brought her five-year-old leaves
5:42 starts eating honey

5:42 to 12:00 and repeat, changing the order and duration.

some highlights:

6:36 introduces flag-waving along with song crying
7:23 during the third razor cut, audience member yells “you don’t have to do it; you know you can stop anytime”. other audience member yells “you know you can’t.” swear someone laughs. self and sidekick feel wave of shame at being totally nonchalant while watching the third cut
7:24 person behind us passes out, falls on floor, people rush to assistance. makes us think.
8:41 we say “my back hurts; i really need a back massage.” feel enormous guilt.
9:01 willem dafoe walks by.
9:32 audience member at eye level to marina starts crying
10:50 metronome breaks
10:51 marina fixes metronome but not before performance has been thoroughly interrupted, spell broken
11:47 loses razor after last cut, finds it, cracks smile, audience laughs, wipes blood off swollen abdomen
11:50 security starts herding people down
11:56 “exhibition is now closed.”
11:57 people clap.
11:57 Sidekick, Muscles, Self all thoroughly disturbed at clapping, thought this was art, become confused as to whether artist is making a comment on the Guggenheim, on art, on herself, or perhaps not at all, discuss rehearsed nature, compare Alexander Technique vs Method Acting , briefly contemplate potential comparisons of athletics and performance art, and try and feel a little bit better about the fact that in between moments of shame, interest, and guilt, we were, on occasion, thoroughly bored. While someone spent seven hours hurting themselves.

Tonight, the last performance: Entering the Other Side.