Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic

OK, first thoughts on last night's performance:

1. I should know a lot more about Robert Wilson before saying anything. That said...

2. Whenever she needed to speak or sing, Marina displayed surprisingly 'bad' stage presence - which is NOT bad, as she's hardly set out to make a name for herself as a suave theatre-type! What it did was give a little bump, a little underlining, to every time she opened her mouth in the story of her own life, which I think ended up having a brilliant effect.

3. Nobody, but nobody, could possibly get away with speak-singing lines like 'Salt in my wounds', in what amounted to practically a baritone, channeling Edith Piaf - factorial - in a military uniform, with her long hair shaken out down one shoulder, in a thick Serbian accent, on a dark stage. Nobody except Marina Abramovic. And, I bet, nobody but Marina Abramovic after a couple of hours of setup as to the horrors she has lived through. Decontextualised, in front of an ignorant audience, I shudder to think the response it would have received.

4. For a piece predicated on staggeringly slow movements, repetitive sounds and movements that echo the durational nature of her own work, the time flew by. If that's not an achievement, I don't know what is.

5. Often, an element that seemed completely cryptic would be explained in the very next section, so that if it were possible to play the performance backwards, it would be a series of illustrations of whatever Willem Defoe had just said. Like crashing head-first into a piece of furniture.

6. What visuals! Damn! Damn damn!

7. Further entertainment was provided by the three kids I eavesdropped on. They were watching the whole thing on shrooms. Entirely too funny.

8. For long stretches, Marina would be sitting stock still, staring at the audience, and we of course could stare right at her. I wonder how many people actually did for any amount of time, and whether any felt the sensations that have been reported, and that I can imagine feeling myself, when sitting across from her one-on-one? Seems like a playground for theorising on presence, right there. I only thought of it when I noticed I was essentially giving up this opportunity to have that experience with her by being continually distracted, if that's a sensible term to use, by what was happening on stage. But then I realised I felt nothing looking at her other than interest and respect.

9. I have to admit, the best anecdote from the evening is how I stood two feet away from Björk.

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