Marina Abramović Retrospective at The Royal Academy

24.10.2023
Jemma Gray

Marina Abramović Retrospective at The Royal Academy

24.10.2023
Jemma Gray

Marina Abramović’s new exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2023 offers a surprising revelation. While showcasing her well-known archive of performance art, it also underscores a previously overlooked systemic issue. As the first female artist to receive a retrospective at the Royal Academy, her recognition is commendable, shedding light on a longstanding gender imbalance within the institution.

The exhibition features a recreation of her renowned performance piece, ‘The Artist is Present’ at MOMA New York (2009), where Abramović sat silently for 736 hours and 30 minutes, engaging with museum visitors. The Royal Academy replicates this experience with multiple screen recordings of Abramović and her audience, allowing visitors to engage with her work, despite her physical absence. This departure from her live presence challenges the essence of her performance art.

The second room in the exhibition focuses on ‘Rhythm 0’ (1974), an early performance where Abramović presented herself as an object for the audience to interact with, leading to extreme actions. The contrast between ‘The Artist is Present’ and ‘Rhythm 0’ underscores the evolution of audience responses and potential boundaries in Abramović’s practice.

The retrospective documents many of her iconic performances through still and moving images, occasionally restaging them with the assistance of trained young artists. Notably, ‘The House with the Ocean View’ (2002) showcases a female artist living in open containers, emphasizing physical and mental endurance. Abramović’s work reflects her constant exploration of personal limits, showing that mental strength and endurance can improve with age. She believes in the transformative power of pushing one’s boundaries, offering a valuable lesson to all.

Marina Abramović Retrospective. Until 1 January 2024