The emergence of neoliberalism, concurrent to the rise in conceptual art, sought to dematerialize thus de-commodify Art. Marina Abramovic’s conceptual performance piece triumphs a work based on experimental participation, rather than a material object. She leaves 72 objects atop a table with the simple instruction;
“There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.
I am the object.
During this period. (6 hours) I take full responsibility.”
Objects: Gun, bullet, blue paint, comb, bell, whip, lipstick, pocket knife, fork, perfume, spoon, cotton, flowers, matches, rose, candle, mirror, drinking glass, polaroid camera, feather, chains, nails, needle, safety pin, hairpin, brush, bandage, red paint, white paint, scissors, pen, book, sheet of white paper, kitchen knife, hammer, saw, piece of wood, ax, stick, bone of lamb, newspaper, bread, wine
honey, salt, sugar, soap, cake, metal spear, box of razor blades, dish, flute, Band-Aid, alcohol, metal, coat, shoes, chair, leather strings, yarn, wire, sulphur, grapes, olive oil, water, hat, metal pipe, rosemary branch, scarf, handkerchief, scalpel, apple
The liberation of her body is extended to the audience who are in return offered a space where they can explore their ontologies. Abramovic stands passively, space is void of any semiotics, therefore, recordings of past or present. This generates an illusion of actions with no consequences. Her performance work differs to that of a play, where the knife is a prop it is here a tool and her blood the material. The spontaneity of the work is not measured and therefore unveils ontologies liberated from the temporality of the structuralist frame and western logocentrism. Abramovic employs Derrida’s ‘Deconstruction’ method through her commitment, and exploration of juxtaposing consciousnesses.
Taking from Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Phase’ one can constitute that the recognition of ‘self’ and ‘being’ cannot exist in singularity. To be aware of one’s liberation and limits, a counterpart must be present. Abramovic’s work eradicates the act of surveillance and opposition, thus, pushes both the mind and body of herself and participants to limit. Where there is no opposition to measure oneself against where does one stop? It seems here that without surveillance and full submission from the artist, participants were eager to test how far they could go. The performance led to a loaded bullet being held to Abramovic’s neck, elucidating that without communication, visual cultures can induce death.
There is a monism implied between participants, capitalism has rendered human emotions programmable and quantifiable through statistic on a scale. Abramovic’s emotion is concealed through the void of language, the only semiosis being the set instructions unveiling her objectness for the next six hours. Yet as the piece ends, and she transgresses from the object to her human identity she walks into the crowd, burdened with the emotional repercussions participants run away from the confrontation. Whilst rendered an object she is objectified, yet as soon as she is a confronting consciousness, participants recognise themselves and societies moral laws they have trespassed. Her work elucidates the consequences of disconnection. Void of subjectivity, Abramovic becomes an object separate from humanity. The accelerating pace of the machine age introduces a separation of the body and psyche, translating our consciousness to the overarching system of technological productivity. Abramovic uses her body as a medium to test the limit of the mental limits of humanity.