Ladies ladies, so gentle and fragile they are… bullshit! Take a look at anything Marina ever did, and you will question your masculinity for years to come even if you were a hybrid between Mickey Rourke and Vin Diesel. And yet, Marina a Lady with a Big fucking L.
Born in Belgrade, Serbia, she was perhaps the first woman to use her body alone for artistic expression. And she used it in most extreme of ways, often challenging the audience to hurt her and at least giving an open option for it to happen.
Exploring the themes of sexuality and woman’s role in society, often challenging the relationship between the audience and the performer, her art took no prisoners when it came to exploring the limitations of the body.
In fact she is known nowadays as The Grandmother of Performance Art.
I never had a chance to see her perform. A gap in my artistic explorations I hope to fill some day.
One of her most memorable performance is definitely Rhythm 5 performed in 1974, where she lit a huge star lying on the floor on fire.
She then cut her hair and toenails and nails and threw them into the fire. And the end of it, she threw herself into the fire. But fire is tricky and it sucked all the oxygen out of the center, and as Marina enter its center, she started suffocating and fainted. Eventually she was rushed to the hospital and saved.
But it is her reaction to what happened that blows my mind – She got angry… Angry that there is a limit to what can be done, as and I am quoting here “when you lose consciousness you can’t be present; you can’t perform”
So she made Rhytm 2 a performance where she explored performance based on limitations of mind and then body.
By taking a drug used for patients in a state of catatonia, she lost control of her body and entered a state of severe, violent convulsions… all long, she remained lucid and observant of what was happening.
Then 10 minutes later, as the drug wore off, she took a strong sedative. This made her physically immobile but present. Yet her mind was shut and she was never aware what was happening around her.
The question is – at what part of this performance was she more present?
I never understood half of her work, but I never could stay indifferent to it. To this day Marina remains a beautiful enigma in the performance art universe to me.