What Even Is Art Anyway?

Marina Abramovic is a Performance Artist who has become known for her unique work that pushes her body to the maximum. Abramovic is willing to go to lengths that some would class as crazy and others powerful. I first encountered Abramovic during my undergrad degree, I wrote an essay about the artist (for the life of me I can’t find it to beg, borrow, or steal my ideas for this article which is highly frustrating but irrelevant to the piece…) However, what I studied about Abramovic and her willingness to hurt her body physically in the name of art has stuck with me for the last five years. One of her most notable works, Rhythm 0, sticks in my mind as Abramovic allowed audience members to interact with her body in whatever way they wished. Resulting in a loaded gun being held to her head by said audience members. To me this was absolute madness, I had performed myself since the age of 12, and arts were important to me, but I wasn’t willing to die for my art. As a result, Abramovic became a regular topic of philosophical conversation within my house with me asking my family questions like: Can we truly say that going to extreme lengths with one’s own body in the name of any form of performance art is ethical? And the even more pressing one is how some people find harming themselves entertaining.

So, when I heard that Abramovic had an exhibition at The Royal Academy in London, I was quick to get tickets to see how this artist’s work impacts modern-day audiences. Would I be one of those people who found the most shocking moments entertaining? Would my response to the dark nature of the work shock me? One thing I think is really important to note is that Abramovic is not performing, so before you buy tickets (students can get in cheaper – the 9k a year is good for something I guess…) this is a reminder that if you want to see the artist in the flesh you will be disappointed. However, if you, like me, have an interest or are keen to see something that will challenge your opinions on art and philosophy this is one for you to investigate.

If you do not want me to give spoilers look away now.

The most powerful thing about this experience for me was how media, installation, and photography were used. It appears that we have arrived at a significant point in history where the artist is no longer required, and Abramovic is frozen in time for the world to see forevermore. The use of sound was fascinating, silence radiated through the rooms with the odd recorded scream or voiceover and people appeared to bask in that moment. That in some ways made me feel emotional but as I went alone it was hard to tell if this was a response that everyone had or just personal. I came out with many of the questions I arrived with and a big one swirling around is What Even Is Art? I guess the response is subjective. I have no idea if the people attending were creatives, philosophers, or superfans as it still appears Abramovic is not a household name as most of my friends asked who she was when I mentioned it. However, if you believe that art has to have an impact to be classed as art then I would argue Abramovic has done that as you could hear a pin drop in the room. Clearly, she had people captivated.

Marina Abramovic Exhibition can be seen at The RA London until 01st January 2024 https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/marina-abramovic


Images: Rachel Elizabeth Otterson   

Art and Photography Editor – Insta @Rachel_Elizabeth_Otterson                                    DM me and let me know what you think.                        

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