For the first time in her Artist’s Page column, Marina Abramović answers a question sent from a reader. We encourage our readers to send questions to Marina about her practice and her life.
Does the process of aging determine aspects of an artist’s practice when his/her medium is his/her body? What is the difference between your work when you were in your twenties and now? Has aging ever been a problem for your practice? Have you ever felt influenced by it?
– Marlene Silveira, São Paulo, Brazil
I don’t feel that the aging of my body determines anything in relation to my practice. In fact, I feel that I can do more now than I could ever do before. When I performed Lips of Thomas in 1975, my performance was one hour long. In 2005, for “7 Easy Pieces” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, I performed the same piece for seven hours straight. This alone is an example of how it is not about the body aging or not aging; it’s about training the mind how to push one’s mental and physical limits further and further. There could be an Olympic champion with a very athletic body who might not be able to do what I do, because it’s really all about the mind. That was the whole point of “The Artist is Present,” my retrospective at MoMA. I am confronted with aging on an everyday basis. You look at yourself in the mirror and you see changes in your body, in the texture of your muscles, in the grayness of your hair. Your energy levels are not as high as they used to be, and you cannot do as much in the time span of one day. Not to mention being confronted at every birthday with a number that inevitably gets higher and higher.
I often wake up in the middle of the night and think about how much time I have left on earth, how the time that I still have should be used in the most productive ways. One finds oneself thinking about loneliness, thinking about dying, and rehearsing the funeral in your mind over and over again. This obviously must have something to do with age. But on the other hand, from the artist’s perspective, aging is a good thing. There is wisdom and insight that filters into your artistic choices. I notice that my different experiences during performances through all these years are adding up and are helping me to create stronger and more radical work. When I was young, I could never do what I am doing now. For my performances, I needed props; I needed to hide my insecurities. And now, I know that I almost don’t need anything at all. I get rid of everything and just let it be about energy. And through this I am more and more connected with my own being, connected with the source of energy in myself. And I am more and more connected with my public. And in this way, the aging of the body doesn’t matter more than anything else.
What are your thoughts on plastic surgery? Would you ever consider having any procedures done?
I feel plastic surgery is acceptable if it improves the self esteem of the person, if it is not too much of an exaggeration and does not turn the person into a monster. In this way I feel small procedures are okay.
I think plastic surgery is not really related to age. It is so funny; when you are younger, you are more unsatisfied with how you look. Somehow you get used to things.
Yes, I have considered having procedures done. Of course, like every other woman. When I was 14, it was my dream to have plastic surgery on my nose, I am so glad I did not do it.