Imagine going to an art show and being greeted by two naked models standing face to face in a narrow doorway. Would you squeeze between them to enter the exhibition, or would you take the alternative entrance? This was the dilemma faced by the visitors of a trending art show in London, which featured the works of Marina Abramovic, a famous artist known for her provocative and challenging performances.
The art show, called Marina Abramovic: 50 Years of Pioneering Performance Art, was held at the Royal Academy of Arts from September 2023 to January 2024. It was the first major retrospective of Abramovic’s 50-year career, which spanned sculpture, video, installation and performance. The show included some of her most iconic and controversial works, such as Rhythm 0 (1974), where she invited the audience to use any of the 72 objects on a table, including a gun and a bullet, on her body; The Artist is Present (2010), where she sat silently for 736 hours and stared into the eyes of anyone who sat opposite her; and Imponderabilia (1977), where she and her partner Ulay stood naked in a doorway and forced the visitors to squeeze between them .
Imponderabilia was recreated for the London show with two different models every day. According to Abramovic, the performance was meant to force a confrontation between nakedness, and the gender, the sexuality, the desire of the visitors. She said: “You have to face your own fear of exposing yourself. You have to face your own sexuality. You have to face your own desire. You have to face your own limits”. The performance also challenged the conventional boundaries between art and life, performer and spectator, public and private. There was a separate entrance for those who were not comfortable squeezing through the nude performers.
The art show received mixed reviews from the critics and the public. Some praised Abramovic as a pioneer and a legend of performance art, who pushed the limits of human endurance and expression. Others criticized her as a narcissist and a sensationalist, who exploited her body and others for fame and money. Some visitors were fascinated by the experience of squeezing between two naked models, while others felt uncomfortable or offended by it.
Whether you love her or hate her, there is no denying that Marina Abramovic is one of the most influential and controversial artists of our time. Her art show in London was a rare opportunity to witness her legacy and challenge yourself with her provocative performances. Would you dare to squeeze between two naked models to enter her exhibition?