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Marina Abramović on art, performance, time and nothingness

Abramović discusses why she believes that in the 21st century art will be made not out of objects but out of energy.

The hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing.’ – Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović is the most celebrated performance artist in the world. Over a career spanning four decades she has pioneered performance as an art form and accumulated a devoted following that includes Jay-Z and Lady Gaga.

Using her body as both subject and object, Abramović explores notions of nothingness and time, and draws in the audience as part of her performance. At her 2010 exhibition, ‘The Artist is Present’, at New York’s MOMA visitors were invited to sit silently opposite her and gaze into her eyes for an unspecified amount of time. Every day people broke down in tears.

In 2014 Abramović was in London, appearing at the Serpentine Gallery in an acclaimed exhibition, ‘512 Hours’, which featured only herself, the empty gallery, a few props, and the audience who both literally and metaphorically left their baggage at the gate: bags, phones, iPads etc were left in lockers before entry. Warned only to expect the unexpected, visitors were invited to give testimony to their experiences on video, and many spoke of their overwhelming sense of presentness and gratitude.

After the exhibition closed, Abramović came to our stage to discuss her recent experience in London and why, rejecting the materiality and glitz of so much contemporary art, she believes that in the 21st century art will be made not out of objects but out of energy.



Will Gompertz

Arts Editor of the BBC

Arts Editor of the BBC. He is a world expert on Modern Art and has written about the arts for The Times and the Guardian for over 20 years. In 2009, he wrote and performed a sell-out one-man comedy show about modern art at the Edinburgh Festival. Voted one of the world’s top 50 creative thinkers by New York’s Creativity Magazine. He is the author of What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye and Think Like An Artist…And Lead a More Creative, Productive Life.

Marina Abramović

Artist and pioneer of performance art

Belgrade-born artist who has pioneered the use of performance as a visual art form. She has presented her work with performances, sound, photography, video and sculpture in solo exhibitions at major institutions in the U.S. and Europe.