On Tuesday, February 4th, at Bizarre in Bushwick, a variety of performance artists paid homage to Marina Abramović. Curated and hosted by Scary Ben, LIMITLESS: A Marina Abramović Tribute was a chewed up stew of pretty things and visceral bloody meat of the human body and the human condition.
Tapping into the esoteric side of performance art, Scary Ben asked his performers to channel the ideas & influences of Marina Abramović. They reinterpreted her art pieces with their own personal meanings mixed with vaudeville fanfare. “We are the creators of our own limits, and therefore we hold our own power to become without limitations.”
There was a great variety of glitter, glamor, humor, and spectacle. However, the highlight of the evening was the very guttural and vulnerable performance of Melody Jane, in her homage to Lips of Thomas.
In Marina Abramović’s 1975 version of the piece, the artist arrives naked before you. Slowly, spoonful after spoonful, she consumes over two pounds of honey and drinks a liter of red wine. She breaks the glass, carving a pentagram onto her abdomen with a shard, and ends the scene flogging herself numb, as she lay down on a cross of ice, bleeding upon it. It is Abramović’s comment on the love, the denial, and the hedonism of the human body.
The piece reflects on ritual, and how women of power are seen as pagans and witches. Melody Jane begins her seduction as the soft mysterious glow of a glittering burlesque strip tease, seen through a plastic curtain diffusing the lights of the stage. The sheet drops away and she slowly pulls off glittering jewelry, gloves, pasties, undoes her wig.
She takes off her panties, to reveal gauze taped over her vagina. She lights a candle, undoes the bandage, and pulls out a razor blade hidden between the soft cotton and her body. She cuts off a lock of hair off from her head, kneels down and ignites it in an offering ceremony.
The smell of burnt hair pervades the front row. She proceeds to carve a symbol of the heart into her skin, deep enough so it bleeds freely across her chest, down her waist, over her vulva. The same heart can be seen as a tattoo on her right forearm. She holds up a small ceramic dish, taking a pinch of salt, rubbing it into her fresh wound.
She stands still, then moves off of the stage onto a platform where she remains for the rest of the show, her hands holding out a vessel of salt, and a vessel of water. Spectators examine her up close, some taking the salt, sprinkling it onto her. One aroused spectator took it upon himself to smile at her as he aggressively rubbed the salt into her skin with his sausage-like unwashed fingers. I found him a bit more disturbing than the pieces themselves, but hey I hope he appreciates art.
Abramović often let the spectator decide upon the boundaries of spectator and fetish voyeur, and their limits on taking from her, offering her body as the vulnerable object for the audience to love or dismember.
One piece she did was so disturbing that it had to be stopped because the participants were worked up into a violent frenzy, forgetting that Abramović is human, and that there are no tricks here. She does feel the pain, the only difference from you and me and her is only that she is enduring it.
Melody Jane’s piece can also be seen as a nod to Abramović’s Rhythm 0. Performed in 1974, Abramović had 72 objects on a table that people could use in any way that they chose to interact with her. Among the objects were items that could bring pleasure or inflict pain, even death. A rose, a feather, honey, grapes, a whip, scissors, a saw, a gun, and a single bullet were among the items present. The artist endured whatever the audience members did to her, and her body for six hours.
“What I learned was that… if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.” “I felt really violated; they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the (loaded) gun at my head, and another took it away”– Marina Abramović
There are many things that move us and reasons that bring us together: that strange mixture of vulnerability and strength, and the oddity of someone who is wiling and wanting, to let us watch. That is the magic of the mystic hierophant Abramović. She makes us remember, that our life is not passive, it is moved by a series of our intentions. Disturbing or beautiful, self-made, or allowed to be worked on by participants, our intentions are what we become, are our work of art.
Adriana Echandi & Rush Hicks
Me (Betty T. Kao) and Joe Che.
Written and Photographed by Betty T. Kao