The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic
by Liliana Guevara Opinska
Walking into the theater initiated the mystical experience that was to last for two and a half hours. Even before the spectacle began the audience was confronted with a surreal image. Three confines, on them three women lying with lifeless bodies, their limbs white as snow, all blood and life drained from them. The women’s faces were covered with inexpressive masks made from white porcelain. On the ground what appear to be limbs and flesh torn apart were spread chaotically on the ground. Among the torn flesh three big, black dogs were roaming around. They were real dogs, so real that one of them defecated on the stage to the great amusement of the majority of the audience. This surreal image was the funeral of Marina Abramovic as envisioned by director Robert Wilson.
The string of images that follow this are equally dramatic, intense and all of them have a “dream-like”, surreal quality as if one was submerged in the head of a eccentric painter, perhaps similar to Dali. Visual “The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic” is one of the most striking spectacles I’ve ever seen.
The deeply disturbing images were effectively backed, accentuated and even stretched to larger proportions by the music composed by Anthony of Anthony and the Johnsons. In fact the theatrical vision offered penetrated me so deeply that it was almost unbearable to watch it for two and a half hours.
The life of Marina Abramovic is as strange as the vision of her death. The strangeness and horror of some of the anecdotes from her life are surly magnified through the vision of a child, as the one she was at the time, and her distorted memories. All the stories from her life are magnified on stage and made into a grotesque caricature, hence the mimes, hence the exaggerated gestures, hence the over made-up faces of the actors and of Marina herself.
I listened to a radio interview with Abramovic a few days before attending the show; she said that in order to be able to present pain to the audience you needed to make it comic. She said that she believed there was something about laughter that allowed to unlock human hearts and minds and made them susceptive and receptive to pain in ways that are not easily accessible otherwise. She gave an example by pointing out that when we watch TV and we stumble upon painful information about war, suffering or hunger we quickly switch the channel so that we do not have to share in on the pain, whereas through laughter that pain becomes much more bearable. Laughter is such powerful human emotion, in Humerto Eco’s “The name of the Rose” monks killed to preserve in secret the second book of Aristotle’s poetics on the power of laughter. I did not laugh during the spectacle; I found it to be hard to bear.