Marina Abramovic believes that artists should suffer to make
good work. Happiness is a static state, she believes, meaning that
we don't wish to move beyond it and therefore it is not a state
that is fertile for artists. Depression however is something that
kills the artistic spirit and suicide is reviled as a crime against
life. Artists, she believes, should not fall in love with other
artists; artists should not try to control their lives but should
however have total control over their work. There are some
inconsistencies in the statements that Abramovic makes in her
artist's manifesto but her women-only lecture in the Southbank's
Queen Elizabeth Hall is nourishing food for thought.
Abramovic is the 'grandmother of performance art' who throughout
her 40 years exploring the liminal extremes of body, mind,
emotions, life and death - she famously lost consciousness in one
performance; and in another invited the audience to do what they
wanted with her provided they use one of 72 objects on display
including a gun, a single bullet, a knife and other items - has
consistently and thought-provokingly pushed boundaries.
I'm not sure exactly why transgender musician and visionary
Antony Hegarty (of The Johnsons) invited her to deliver her
women-only lecture - introduced by Sex and The City's Kim Catrall
(Samantha) who ushered Abramovic to the stage with the words
"Welcome to the revolution!" - because she tells us that she isn't
a feminist and that art isn't gendered. "There is only good and bad
and ok art but not male or female art," she says.
But like the others who are sharing the stage with him during
Meltdown 2012, including the brilliant musician Joan Wasser (Joan
As Police Woman) and cellist Julia Kent, Abramovic doesn't shy away
from exploring the darker aspects of human nature, the rich
particularity of suffering and a trenchant desire for life.
Whatever, all these women feel to me as though they are part of
Antony's extended family.
Seeing Joan Wasser (pictured) at the Royal Festival Hall is a
very different experience to the Joan I saw a year ago at the
Hammersmith Apollo - less rocky (she was playing without her usual
band) but equally as mesmeric and rich with pathos, joy and
authentic life love. Before playing a track from her last album The
Deep Field, she says she credits Antony with having saved her life
and journalists ever since have been asking her to tell them the
grizzly details. She doesn't have to - its all there in her music
if you listen. A generous performer, responsive to the audience and
gracious, she gives us a taster of the tracks she's been working on
with David Sylvian and we lap it up like ravenous foxes. It's fair
to say I'm bowled over.
Antony's show on Sunday is an ecstatic spectacle that brings
together his long-time inspiration Kazuo and Yoshito Ohno - leading
lights in Japanese Butoh - and his small but perfectly formed band
of new Johnsons - including the wonderful Julia Kent (cello) and
performer Johanna Constantine. Antony sits, singing and playing a
grand piano, in rapture and in dialogue with Yoshito (son of
recently deceased Kazuo) who is painted white and carries a range
of items, a red rose, a blue horse's head and he brings an
enchanced emotional dimension to Antony's songs of love and loss,
pain and joy, crying for the dieing of the light, the destruction
of the earth and urging us to look to a future feminism, a
matriarchal system of governance. It's quite breathtaking, and the
audience cries complex tears.
It's a crying shame this revolution won't be televised but if
Antony get his way, the future looks a good deal better than
anything our ruling elite could offer up.
Meltdown continues until 12 August. Get more information here: