Marina Abramovic’s current show at Lisson Gallery in London’s Lisson Grove, is embarrassing and probably… fraudulent (?) because of the way it is pitched. I am saying this because a few years ago, the gallery tricked me and a couple of clients with the same sales pitch that is currently using. I am referring to the fact that ‘these works had never been exhibited before or that they had just been remastered. According to Lisson, ‘White Space’ is a ‘a range of historic works by Marina Abramović, most of which have never been exhibited before, featuring two sound pieces, previously unseen video documentation of seminal performances and a number of newly discovered photographs, all dating from 1971-1975. Of course, the excuse for the lack of organicity of this material is that her work is all about the immaterial. In other words, Lisson Gallery is showing fragmentary footage found in Marina’s studio which, under no circumstance, should be considered as works of art in their own right. The question is whether this is actually legal?
First realised in 1972 at The Student Cultural Centre in Belgrade, White Space was a room lined with white paper containing a tape recording of the artist repeating the phrase “I love you”. Visitors were instructed to “Enter the space. Listen.” Never since recreated, this work forms the centrepiece of this display of memorabilia turned into art because Lisson (and I believe Marina Abramovic) says so. With the excuse of such a recreation (or reenactment) a series of footage and paperwork suddenly acquires testimonial and documentary value as works of art?
The Tree (1971) is a ‘historic’ audio work by Marina that allegedly refers to the political situation in Yugoslavia because she says so. In fact, a number of speakers blare out an artificially amplified repetition of birds chirping in the courtyard. According to the gallery ‘the insistent recording perhaps referring to the recorded pronouncements of Josip Broz ‘Tito’, Yugoslavia’s revolutionary socialist leader of the time, whom Abramović’s parents fought with and eventually served under, as military officers in the Communist government’. Are we talking about a recording of birds chirping which, as we are meant to believe, refer to Tito? Is she taking the piss? Just a thought.
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