I have been a performance artist for 40 years of my life. I have done many works that stretch the limitations of the mind and body. Look this, this, this, this, this, and this to see examples.

My most recent work, "The Artist Is Present", was at MoMA in New York. I sat for 736 hours across from anyone who wanted to sit with me.

I am now doing a Kickstarter to create an institute for long durational performance. Join me on the adventure. Ask me anything.


Edit: Thank you for the questions. I enjoyed it very much. I might do it again another time. In the meanwhile you can see this video of a joke.

New Edit: I will be back on this page to answer questions on Monday, August 19th at 3pm. Then I will answer questions for Kickstarter backers only here. I will also later be hugging every backer of the Kickstarter. I hope we reach the goal.

New Edit: I am here. Ask me anything.

New Edit: I am now going to the MAI Kickstarter to answer questions of backers here. Join us and back now. We have only five days left to reach the goal. Thank you all.

Comments: 693 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

sahba147 karma

Dear Marina, thanks for this AMA.

1) What was that final hug on top of the Great Wall of China like? Can you describe it for us?

2) This question may be too personal, but why did you two decide to part ways at that time?

3) How is your heart?

abramovicinstitute361 karma

1) One of the most painful moments of my life. I knew this was over, I new it was end of very important period of my life. I just remember I could not stop crying. 2) It's very simple: Ulay was not faithful. He made the translator pregnant at the time and this was very difficult to handle. 3) I am not in love and I am free.

tpmule250494 karma

I'm a security guard at the Museum of Contemporary Art (chicago), I see your photograph with you standing in the abandoned orphanage everyday. It's one of those things that grounds me, doing what I do.

abramovicinstitute68 karma

For me it is very important to do what I believe and to have every day sense of reality. I am very happy that it grounds you.

_conceptual_94 karma

You do not appear to have aged at all in 40 years. Are you a vampire? If not, to what do you credit your eternal youth?

abramovicinstitute189 karma

I will soon post the photos of my grandmother who was 103 and her mother who was 116 to prove that Montenegro people live long and never age.

monoglot78 karma

Hi Marina,

I am intrigued by the final reward for your Kickstarter:

Pledge $10,000 or more
[THE EXERCISES / LIVE EVENT: NOTHING] Marina will do nothing. You will do nothing. You will not be publicly acknowledged.
Estimated delivery: Aug 2013

I have gone my entire life thus far without being acknowledged by you. Assuming you answer this question, can I pledge $10,000 (or more) to have your current acknowledgment of me and this question wiped off the books, in essence returning me to my prior, primeval state of Abramovićical unacknowledgment?

abramovicinstitute64 karma

Yes. However you want to see it. But contribution would be appreciated.

sarahgj67 karma

I am reading your biography, and was lucky enough to see you speak at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center Last week (thank you!). One of the things I was touched by in the book were the occasions with Nesy and Ulay where you opted to forgo parenthood because of the life you wanted to pursue as an artist. I have chosen the same, and wonder if you have any thoughts on this very important choice looking back. Would you have had time for children? How you do feel about these decisions now?

abramovicinstitute100 karma

I never wanted to have children. I never had the biological clock running like other women. I always wanted to be an artist and I knew that I could not divide this energy into anything else. Looking back, I think it was the right decision.

kulaki65 karma

What passed though your head when you saw Ulay at The Artist Is Present at MoMA?

abramovicinstitute103 karma

It was very emotional. Entire life of our twelve years together went like a fast forward film. These moments of intensity were very important for me.

RedPotato49 karma

What question fo you wish people asked you but never do?

abramovicinstitute107 karma

"Are you happy?" Nobody asks this.

joysbreath41 karma

In Rhythm 0, you were aimed at with a gun. Would you die for art?

A lot of your work has to do with inflicting pain. What does pain mean to you?

I think your work is so moving. I love your work!

abramovicinstitute27 karma

My performance Rhythm 0 was a piece I was ready to die for. But I was not the one who used the gun. It was up to the audience if they used or not. Pain is very important to understand. All human beings have a fear of pain. The only way to get rid of pain is to confront the pain, and this is what I have been doing in performance.

elizabethahn39 karma

During your career, you have made contemporary art accessible to a wider audience, which inevitably gave you the power of public interest, while maintaining the dialogue of your durational and meditative works that physically and emotionally pushed your own being into an experience to urge internal speculation within the viewer- however, do you think cultural prominence and fascination jeopardizes the viewer/participator’s privatized, inner contemplation and encounter with your work? Is there a risk of sensationalization or spectacle?

abramovicinstitute52 karma

In art, there is always such a risk. But the most important is the attitude of the artist himself. How this sensationalism affects him. If the artist understands this is just a side effect and not the main aim of his work, then he can handle it. Otherwise, the sensationalism can destroy himself and the art.

godessceline38 karma

You have previously mentioned that you are not a feminist. What is a feminist to you, and did your views on feminism and sisterhood change after your recent all-women lecture? Hearing you talk about it, it sounds as if you connected with every woman present in a very beautiful and genuine way.

abramovicinstitute14 karma

It's not that my views on feminism changed. I think that feminism itself has changed. Feminism now is not the same as in the 70's and after my experience with the all-women lecture, I am much more open to the idea of sisterhood than I was before and also my understanding of female energy is different.

marshallastor38 karma

What is intimacy?

abramovicinstitute91 karma

Complete trust.

puremood38 karma

do you take Jay-Z seriously

abramovicinstitute101 karma

I do. He comes from really troubled background. He make his own way from the really difficult childhood and struggle to being rapper royalty and that's not easy. I respect that.

zoebokany32 karma

Have you ever doubted yourself?

abramovicinstitute69 karma

In my emotional life. Never in my artistic.

Salacious-31 karma

Who was the most obnoxious person that you met while sitting with people? Why were they annoying?

abramovicinstitute56 karma

There was many people who sit in the front of me who in the first moments I was irritated or angry. But during the session, that energy changed, and I do not have any bad memory of this.

translunary31 karma

What advice (if any) do you have for a young artist who is just...tired? I mean tired of thinking of the meaningfulness and social aspects of art, tired of making and doing projects, tired of everything that it means to live and breathe art.

I am inspired, and yet I feel like I can never provide a sufficient outlet for my ideas...and that is a very exhausting concept. How do you persevere, especially since a lot of your work seems to deal with the idea of exhaustion of self?

abramovicinstitute19 karma

First of all, it is important to find the joy in what you are doing. Even if you are tired, even if you are exhausted, if you still have the determination to deliver the concept, which is more important than your own self, then the joy will be there. True love for whatever you are doing is the answer to everything.

Jethrogalloch31 karma

Can you describe the most intense single emotion you have ever felt during your career as a performing artist? What brought it on, and did it have any impact upon whatever you may have been doing at the time?

abramovicinstitute94 karma

Definitely coming back to the hotel after Rhythm 0 performance at two in the morning, looking in the mirror and realizing that a big piece of my hair just got white.

joejeo1129 karma

Why did you choose performance art as your medium?

abramovicinstitute62 karma

It is very important for an artist to understand which is the right medium for him to work. I was very lucky that I found very early that performance art was the only way that I can give my message. It's immediate, it's time-based, it's immaterial.

newdutchking28 karma

What is your relationship with spirituality?

Why is it a rule in your manifesto not to fall in love with another artist?

abramovicinstitute71 karma

1) So spirituality is very important part of life and art. I am not talking about religions because they are institutions. I am talking about understanding yourself on a deeper level.

2) I have done this three times and each time I had the heart broke. This comes from my own personal experience. It's very competitive situation, and it's a very complicated story I cannot answer in a few words. It's a matter of longer conversation.

abramovicinstitute57 karma

But the best is to look history of artists living together form the past to now and see how many tragic ends are there.

dreamshoes27 karma

I saw you perform "The Artist Is Present" at the MoMA and found it extremely moving, though I did not participate. Would you mind saying a bit about your mindset during the performance? Was it more a blank, meditative state, or did you make a concerted effort to achieve a nonverbal connection with each person that sat across from you?

abramovicinstitute60 karma

Both. It's very important to come to the non-thinking state and it takes lots of effort and once you are in that state, that makes much more easy communication with the person in front of you because you are able to see him as he is, not through the way of your thinking.

abrouse27 karma

What makes you cry?

abramovicinstitute80 karma


abramovicinstitute72 karma

And other people's unhappiness.

abackherms27 karma

Would you one day, when you are very old, chose to end your life as part of a performance?

abramovicinstitute91 karma

Never. The killing of yourself is against my principal.

kumpkump24 karma

Which was your favorite of your Rhythm performances? What piece have you done that has scared you the most? What advice do you have for young artists of any medium?

abramovicinstitute59 karma

The most scary performance for me was Rhythm 0, not just because my life was in jeopardy but also that the public had complete control and not me. Through the process I realized that if you give total freedom to the public, they really can kill you.

montanachill21 karma

Hi Marina, First I just wanted to say how impressive I think your work is. I had been walking through MOMA with my dad when I saw you sitting in front of a young woman and was mesmerized by your control and sense of calm. I remember hearing about a performance you did in which you sat in front of a large table filled with various items, including a loaded handgun, which anybody could use. One person actually ended up pointing the gun at you, yet you sat still.

All of your pieces seem to be equally physically/emotionally exhausting. My question to you is how do you retain such control and calm under such duress?

abramovicinstitute29 karma

I train all my life to do that. The most important is to in life create the very strong discipline and whatever you decide to do, never give up. That makes me focus. And also, it is very important in your life to sense a purpose. Once you find a sense of purpose, you can do anything.

rafagros19 karma

What do you think about Damien Hirst work? Do you think art is becoming more entertainment and less vanguard?

abramovicinstitute51 karma

Good artist, incredible business man.

tbirdtj19 karma

I watched your documentary on "The Artist Is Present", and I have to say I gained a whole new appreciation for performance art. It was crazy to me that just sitting there staring at another person could evoke so much emotion for the person sitting across from you. What did you feel from your perspective? Could you feel their emotions projected onto you?

abramovicinstitute6 karma

The first minute I felt the emotions of the other person being projectected on me, but after a while, the emotions came purely out of the person themself, and they were real and personal. I just became a mirror of themselves. Their emotions moved me, and I let my emotions come out also.

emerald_polarbear19 karma

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned about human nature?

abramovicinstitute60 karma

It is very, very easy to put human spirit down and much more important to lift it up.

icemmm19 karma

In your performances you seem comfortable revealing so much that is usually private, your body and your physical and emotional pain. At what point if any, do you feel the need for privacy? Or do you see no line between your art and your life?

abramovicinstitute14 karma

I have a very strong sense of purpose in my life and in my work. I gave up privacy long time ago. In many ways, I decided to sacrifice my private life to the work.

simongo1218 karma


abramovicinstitute6 karma

Thank you. I really appreciate your support and I hope that you will be one of the visitors to my institute when it opens.

kirenosliw18 karma

Why do you keep referring to an artist as "himself" when you are a woman?

abramovicinstitute94 karma

But everybody knows that I am the woman. In Serbian, my native language, art and artist are male noun and adjectives, so it is a matter of translation. I don't put importance to this. It doesn't matter who is making art, male or female, what matters is good or bad art.

Frajer17 karma

What happens if you have to sneeze or something when you're sitting there at MOMA?

abramovicinstitute34 karma

Yes, that many times happen that I have to sneeze. But I also developed technique with the breathing that you can repress it. It's not easy but worked.

godessceline16 karma

Many of those of us with a creative streak find that although our minds are constantly buzzing, we're often the most creative late at night. Is it the same for you, and if so - why do you think that is, and what is your relation to the night?

abramovicinstitute29 karma

When I was young, I would only work at night. But now, after 50, I start to like mornings. I think with age, the rhythm changes.

saintdada15 karma

Marina, when you are having a bad day what do you tell yourself/ what keeps you going? x

abramovicinstitute44 karma

I'm not attached to bad day or good day. We always know after the rain the sun will come. It is a law of nature. When it is really, really bad day, I take a long bath full of Kosher salt and baking soda, soak for 30 minutes, and I feel better.

toddlergangbang15 karma

Hi Marina! Ever since I saw the documentation of you eating the onion, I've always wondered if there has ever been a performance that has pushed you close to, or over the edge as a performer--have you ever reached the point of no return in any of your works?

abramovicinstitute38 karma

If I reach the point of no return, I would not be here answering this question. I like to go the edge and to feel that moment but there is no point of crossing. Life is too precious.

lazaralazara15 karma

From the perspective of an artist who's works "stretch the limitations of the mind and body" - where do you find (or not) reconciliation with your mortality?

Iz perspektive umetnice čija dela "pomeraju granice uma i tela" - kako se bavite i mirite (ili ne) sa svojom smrtnošću?

abramovicinstitute24 karma

I am thinking about death every day. I include ideas of death in daily life. I am now in the last stage of my life when I have to consider dying as a possibility. I can't say I'm not afraid of it but I can say that I understand that more and more than I ever have before. It's a part of my work too. The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, directed by Bob Wilson, starts with my funeral.

fontastico15 karma

What music do you enjoy? Do your ideas or tastes in music (or sound in general) play a formative role in your work?

abramovicinstitute33 karma

I was brought up listening to classical music. I like Bach, Chopin, Mozart. I also like to listen to multicultural music like Portuguese Fado, Argentinian tangos, like Antony and the Johnsons, etc.

poiein15 karma

You said that “The hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing, because it’s demanding all of you.” What is the closest thing to nothing you have ever done?

abramovicinstitute32 karma

Completely surrendering to my migraine attack when I could not move or open my eyes, just let pain take over.

Redstreak114 karma

What are some things you have planned with Gaga for the ARTRave that you can tell us about?

abramovicinstitute21 karma

It's a secret at the moment. But we are both excited.

redspoon14 karma

What advice to do you have for the throng of young artists who idolize you?

abramovicinstitute31 karma

Before you start to be an artist, you have to be sure that this is what you want. And then you have to be ready to sacrifice everything and be ready to be alone. It's not easy life, but when you succeed with your ideas, reward is wonderful. Maybe I became idol to the young people because I never comprised. I never see myself like idol, but I can't prevent public to see me that way.

walmartsushi14 karma

I feel like your work is so symbolic and so focused. I'm fascinated by your presentation. I'm not a performer (I'm a musician) so this is new territory for me and I wanted to know more about your process.

How do you come up with an idea for a performance piece? How do you flesh it out? How do you think about communicating the meaning of a piece?

Thank you!

abramovicinstitute29 karma

I only pick up the ideas who I am afraid of or who are disturbing or who I have never been in that territory before. Ideas who are nice, friendly, or I like them I do not choose because they are too easy. It's very important to create high standards for yourself, no matter what. My ideas come from life not from studio.

camraml14 karma

Marina, where are you?

abramovicinstitute27 karma

I'm right now sitting on the wooden chair in the front of the computer and answering as much questions as I can in one hour because I think it is important to answer honestly and openly.

disleksicar13 karma

What bothers me the most is, how does it feel doing something which is close to nothing? I have always feared to encounter such manifestations.

abramovicinstitute30 karma

To do nothing is much more difficult than to do things. Tibetans have a beautiful word for nothing which means full emptiness, but emptiness with meaning. To get to that kind of state of mind is lots of work.

meowmarcataffi13 karma

Why do you need funding through Kickstarter?

abramovicinstitute36 karma

The idea of institute is an original one -- Kickstarter is a young and original idea of fundraising through social media. I think it is appropriate for institute not to make it elitarian but rather for everyone to found the institute who wants to.

artnotfound13 karma

I am a new media artist who often works with social media and technology (examples: http://www.art404.com/world-of-whitecraft & http://www.art404.com/anon-vs-art & http://www.art404.com/node/43 ).

Your new institute seems to stress the absence of these technologies, is there a place for technology and social media in the Marina Abramovic Institute? Can the internet be spiritual? Can Twitter be a valid medium for performance art?

abramovicinstitute27 karma

Yes, yes, yes, yes. If you just see one of the rewards on the Kickstarter from Pippin Barr, you can see that computers can be used as a tool for meditation tools. We will definitely have technology chamber in the institute because I think we can't deny technology and its effects on humanity today. Again, context is everything.

cathiusca13 karma

If someone forced you to move to a cabin in the middle of the woods by yourself for a year, and said you could only take 3 books with you, which books would you choose?

abramovicinstitute69 karma

I would not take the books. I would take three journal with white pages that I can write in. I'd rather write about my experience than read about others'.

visualmadness11 karma

To what extent had you and David Blaine planned that disembowelling stunt before you decided to scrap the idea?

abramovicinstitute15 karma

I still like to do it. Maybe in another context, maybe in a different way. It's going to be surprise. But my retrospective was not proper place for this.

ccp10811 karma

Your piece "An artist's life Manifesto" has fascinated me for some time. I struggle with perfectionism and put a lot of pressure on myself as an artist. This work captured a lot of what I have experienced, as did "Art Must Be Beautiful." How do you cope with perfectionism and self criticism?

abramovicinstitute21 karma

I am my worst critic. I am also perfectionist. Before I start performance, I have to have everything in place. I am obsessive about details. But once I start, I let it go. Whatever unexpected thing happens in that time is a part of the piece.

RedPotato10 karma

Influential art blog Hyperallergic called the JayZ Picasso Baby event "The day performance art died". How do you feel about this?

abramovicinstitute18 karma

Performance art never dies. It's like a phoenix, always giving birth out of its own ashes.

kristineroan10 karma


What place do you see the occult having within contemporary art; can magick be made (not simply appropriated/ performed)?

Thanks, K

abramovicinstitute28 karma

Everything depends on which context you are doing what you are doing. If you are doing the occult magic in the context of art or in a gallery, then it is the art. If you are doing it in different context, in spiritual circles or private house or on TV shows, it is not art. The intention, the context for what is made, and where it is made defines what art is or not.

Spiveys9 karma

How did Rhythm 0 help you grow as an artist? It definitely seems like one of your most controversial and defining pieces. Did it teach you to become fearless?

Also, how is working with Lady Gaga? Does she share your passion for performance art? Can you give us a tease on what's to come?

abramovicinstitute3 karma

Rhythm 0 was a very strong experience for me. First of all, it taught me that if you give the public freedom, they can kill you. It is a very important lesson that you can only trust yourself with how far you can push your own limits, mental and physical. You can't trust the public to do this for you.

poiein9 karma

Is our consciousness always confined to time and space? Can we ever experience life outside of these two coordinates that usually influence our existence?

abramovicinstitute11 karma

Of course. There are so many different dimensions and we only use a small percent of brain, but ancient rituals and ceremonies explore these possibilities that we can understand that time doesn't exist, that it is only invention. My understanding is that if you are fully in the present, time does not exist. Time only exists in measuring the past and the future.

aphorismo9 karma

what is your relationship with Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy like? How have you mutually influenced each other?

abramovicinstitute10 karma

We are very good friends. He is a part of my artist family. He is original creator and I respect him. Plus, we have lots of fun together, which is important.

creesteeeena8 karma

Hi, Marina. First of all, thanks for giving us a little of your time.

I would like to know: have any pieces of music influenced your performances?

abramovicinstitute6 karma

Yes. John Cage. He introduced silence in music. This was really influential on me.

Getawhale8 karma

What are your views on those who intentionally risk death in the name of performance art?

abramovicinstitute3 karma

This is a very difficult question. I cannot speak for anybody else except for myself. In my case, I don't want to die during the performance. I only want to know how far I can go.

Kalliope38 karma

In what ways do you think photography can move beyond only serving as a document of long durational performance art? How might it be conceptually integrated into the process of performance itself? For example, time-lapse photography, etc.?

abramovicinstitute25 karma

In photography it's not the concept of the piece itself. If the photography is not a part of the concept of the performance, it will stay always documentation.

ImEatingHummus7 karma


abramovicinstitute19 karma

The best way to get into performance art is to see as much performance art as possible. Performance art is time-based art, you have to be there and look at it and experience it. You have to have the patience because you also can see many many bad performance art works and give up. But once you see a really good performance work, you will fully understand what it is, and it can change your life. So don't give up. Go until this point.

dleuze7 karma

Do you read anything of what academics write about your work? If so, what was/is your reaction? (Specifically to the discussion about your "Seven Easy Pieces")

abramovicinstitute18 karma

I read everything that people write about my work. I am interested in their opinions. Doesn't mean that I am agreeing with everything. For me it is very valuable what artists think about my work because sometimes academics complicate it too much.

lelebuonerba7 karma

What's your favorite place in Milan?

abramovicinstitute12 karma

The PAC museum.

vh12306 karma

Why does a wealthy artist, who sold her loft of $3.2M last year, need 600K from fans just to pay one of the world's best known architects to sketch up an idea for her personal project?

abramovicinstitute122 karma

The MAI institute is not a personal project. MAI is for everybody. I donate the whole building which I bought on my birthday for $950,000 to the non-profit organization and I don't own it. I also paid another half a million for the master plan of Rem Koolhaas from my own money and the office budget for five months. So this does not belong to me anymore, it belongs to anybody. If this kind of concept is something our society needs, they have to join me to create it.

Fuhdawin5 karma

What did you want to be growing up?

abramovicinstitute17 karma

I always want to be an artist and nothing else ever.

sisutude5 karma

I sat across from you at MOMA, but you did not recognize me. Why not? In the days and weeks before I sat with you, I had sat somewhere else for hours, in an office in the Lower East Side, typing the sounds I heard from headphones, they were the sounds of your voice. You spoke of your life and of your work. I was transcribing your words for a documentary. I could hear you, but I could not see you. Then I went to sit with you at MOMA, and I could see you, but you were perfectly silent. I could see you, but I could not hear you. Why did you not recognize me?

abramovicinstitute21 karma

I don't know where I was in that moment. Did I talk to you? Did we look each other in the eyes long time? I sit with more than a thousand people and mostly which I perceived was that moment and that energy. If that energy changed in enormous circumstances, that's maybe the reason that I did not identify. But it is nothing personal, I'm so sorry.

valefusa4 karma

How are you?

abramovicinstitute4 karma

Right now, I am in Oslo working on a new project and also the MAI Kickstarter. I am exhausted and happy.

pliselonpli3 karma

I've always found (contemporary/unpremiered) music to have parallels to performance art, with a few major differences— you mentioned one once in discussing a hierarchy of art, saying that music passes directly through the body of the observer, making it the most direct. My concern as an artist is a second: as a creator in performance art, you largely creates experiences that you will perform yourself. As a creator in contemporary music, especially music preoccupied equally with the challenges of the performance than the overall sound, one loses that direct control but exerts control on another performer.

Can you speak to this difference in creating experiences for yourself vs. others? How did this dynamic affect you when reliving the works during Seven Easy Pieces?

abramovicinstitute7 karma

The only thing I can say is that there is no work for myself or for others. In performance, the public is the essential part of the work. The performance would be not existing without the public. Public completes the work. And the rest of the question is complicated. It's so many levels. If you simplify next time I will be ready to answer.

arturbenchimol3 karma

What was the most interesting feeling you had while sitting silently in front of a stranger in your work "The Artist Is Present"?

abramovicinstitute12 karma

The most interesting feeling was that I was overwhelmed by unconditional love for every person sitting in the front of me. It was so strong and so surprising, took me by surprise.

mausx33 karma

When you began performing, was exposing yourself to the public, emotionally and physically, difficult? If so, has it gotten easier over time?

abramovicinstitute3 karma

I was very timid as a child. But the moment I found that performance was my tool of expression, I was very happy. The moment of the performance, all timidness would leave and the moment it stopped, it would come back. Back then, it would take me a certain amount of time to get into the certain state of consciousness that I need to perform. Now, I get to that state almost instantly.

ShoesandCoates3 karma

If you could choose your reincarnation for the next life, who/what would you come back as?

abramovicinstitute6 karma

A sequoia tree. I wouldn't do anything for a long, long time. It lives the longest, has the strongest roots into the ground, and doesn't move.

mirkocerullo1 karma

What if you were born a TWIN? You just said you didn't want to have children because you didn't want to divide your energy. But how do you see your performance art pieces if you were a twin? Would you want your twin to be part of them? I mean, do you think s/he would be relevant to you as an artist? Would you feel like your energy was doubled, or reduced by half?

abramovicinstitute6 karma

Twins are very connected to each other but I never I had a twin, so how I could answer this question?