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ART IST KUKU NU UT: MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ (opening). © Gabriela Liivamägi

The exhibit, “Art Must Be Beautiful. Selected works by Marina Abramović”, is composed of four pieces that represent quite a long time span and several different creative periods of the artist's career. Rael Artel, the curator of the exhibition, has chosen to display video transcriptions, most of which solely feature the artist herself (the exception is Role Exchange, which also includes a prostitute from Amsterdam's Red Light District). Unfortunately, none of the selected works include Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen's stage name) – Abramović's partner in life and art, together with whom she created works in a period that lasted over ten years. Nevertheless, the structure of the exhibit and the chosen works offer a good overview of the artist's body of work. In addition, they create very strong but ambivalent ties which may not be so obvious at first sight.

The already mentioned work, “Art Must Be Beautiful. Artist Must Be Beautiful” (1975), is not only the core of the exhibition, but has become the subtitle of the festival's main theme, ART IST KUKU NU UT. Although several art critics and theorists have criticized the work's chief message for including “the critique of the the bourgeois art consumer and emphasizing a sexist regard for the female artist”[1], when viewing the exhibit, the work unfolds in a slightly different manner. Abramović's works offer up a world of interpretation. They are often tied to feminism, activism and criticism of the relationship between the consumer of art and the artist; political references are also common. However, in the context of the exhibit, Art Must be Beautiful. Selected works by Marina Abramović, the most interesting aspect is the way in which it portrays women – not as a part of society, fighters for equality or power – but as emotional and sensitive beings that reveal their inner experiences, thoughts and mental and emotional states through their bodies. When speaking about Marina Abramović's performances (and performances in general), the body is viewed as a medium – in principle, the body is seen as separate from the artist herself – it becomes a part of the concept. The quote by Bojana Pejić: “She [M.Abramović – E.T.] was working on her own body,”[2], delineates the contrast between working “on” something and working “with” something, which, when analyzing performance works, can be of significance. When conversing with an art form that works with the body (as opposed to on it or against it), I am primarily interested in the direct expressions of the body and their hidden/metaphorical meanings. 

[1]    Artel R. Art Must Be Beautiful. Selected works by Marina Abramović – exhibition catalog, 2011, p. 7

[2]    „[..]she was working on her own body,” Bojana Pejić. „I’m just washing dishes”. One question to Bojana Bojana Pejić.// Art Must Be Beautiful. Selected works by Marina Abramović- exhibition catalog, 2011. - p.25