Marina AbramoviÄ‡ is a force of nature; Her grueling performances have established her as one of the major female artists of our time. Most recently, her piece The Artist is Present, involved sitting in the MoMA for 736 hours, not moving, while spectators were allowed to sit and stare at her for as long as they liked.
Her latest work, an autobiographical performance piece titled The Life and Death of Marina AbramoviÄ‡, is an avant-garde collaboration with director Robert Wilson, singer Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), and actor Willem Dafoe.
Staged at the amazing park Avenue Armory (a fortress!), the play is a sort-of eulogy to the alleged death of AbramoviÄ‡. The work covers a range of experiences, beginning with her childhood in Belgrade and her difficult relationship with her mother, who is portrayed (by the artist) as a cruel, cold, black-clad figure. The play continues with a few cringe-inducing moments where she lays bare her feelings of inadequacy (regarding her weight, her nose, her loneliness). The dense emotional content is countered by the stunningly beautiful visuals; I often found myself trying to figure out what the hell was going on, only to sit back, relax, and soak it in.
Antony's songs were literally angelic and, for me, the best part of the play (I'm calling it a play but it is really a mixture of theater, opera, spoken word, dance, visual performance). Also thrilling was the rhythmic chanting of Serbian singers led by the haunting voice of Svetlana Spajic (which brought to mind the choral group from the 90s The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices ). The sets were colorfully goth, and the finale where AbramoviÄ‡ and Dafoe (her conscience?) were floating in the clouds was stark and stunning.
I don't pretend to totally "get" this piece, but its ruminations on death are pretty thought-provoking. Her art is sometimes astonishing, violent, funny and awkward--but almost always beautifully brutal. It takes someone with a huge ego to present their life experience on stage in all its honest and messy glory, but AbramoviÄ‡ is clearly not afraid of much, let alone death, and that's what makes her so compelling. The Life and Death of Marina AbramoviÄ‡ is a wonderful opportunity to see the artist on stage, and to experience her life through her own lens.
There are still tickets available for the following performances:
Tuesday, December 17 at 7:00 p.m. / Wednesday, December 18 at 7:00 p.m. / Thursday, December 19 at 7:00 p.m. / Friday, December 20 at 8:00 p.m. / Saturday, December 21 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $45
www.armoryonpark.org / (212) 933-5812