When Marina Abramovic Dies
344 pp., 7 x 9 in, 100 b&w illus.
- Published: January 29, 2010
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: August 29, 2014
- Publisher: The MIT Press
The extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most important and pioneering performance artists in contemporary art.
When Marina Abramović Dies examines the extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most pioneering artists of her generation—and one who is still at the forefront of contemporary art today. This intimate, critical biography chronicles Abramović's formative and until now undocumented years in Yugoslavia, and tells the story of her partnership with the German artist Ulay—one of the twentieth century's great examples of the fusion of artistic and private life.
In one of many long-durational performances in the renewed solo career that followed, Abramović famously lived in a New York gallery for twelve days without eating or speaking, nourished only by prolonged eye contact with audience members. It was here, in 2002, that author James Westcott first encountered her, beginning an exceptionally close relation between biographer and subject. When Marina Abramović Dies draws on Westcott's personal observations of Abramović, his unprecedented access to her archive, and hundreds of hours of interviews he conducted with the artist and the people closest to her. The result is a unique and vivid portrait of the charismatic self-proclaimed “grandmother of performance art.”
[This book] is illuminating, well illustrated (100 photographs), and extremely thorough. It is also a great read.
Elizabeth Otto, Women's Art Journal
Westcott has almost certainly produced what will be considered Abramovic's definitive biography, at least of her first sixty-five years.
Roberta Mock, Cambridge University Press
I have known and admired Marina for the last thirty years, both as an artist and as a person, and in reading this remarkable book I recognize a clear insight into both aspects of her personality. With great and obvious love tempered by a sense of humor Mr. Westcott looks back over the life of this unique artist, and insightfully traces the way her personal experiences are reflected in her art, and how her ever-growing dedication to her art in return changed her life. This book honors the legendary career of a fierce and fearless performer, and at the same time celebrates the warm, generous human being she is and the many myths and fables that have accumulated around her (not a few the result of her own self-deprecating sense of humor).
Since she conceived of her first performance in 1969, Marina Abramovic; has been a prime mover in the development of what became known as performance art, a source of its invention like none other, a force. What fuels that dynamism and has shaped its uses and defined its far-reaching impact is the subject of James Westcott's portrait of the artist and account of her work. Gaston Bachelard warned against trying to explain a flower by its fertilizer, but absent Westcott's vivid description of Abramovic's extraordinary childhood among the Communist elite of the former Yugoslavia, her challenge to the authority of Eastern Bloc orthodoxies, her departure for Western Europe and her subsequent exploration of cultures from Asia to Australia to the Americas, our grasp of her motives and our appreciation of her audacity would be much less detailed or critically well informed. Exceptionally candid and articulate in conversation—the artist's voice echoes throughout this book—and performances, Abramovic; is a public mystery, a contemporary Sphinx. Rather than destroy that mystery, Westcott deepens it. Rather than contain her art, he opens it up.
Robert Storr, Dean, School of Art, Yale University
This book is a magnificent way to get to know Marina's work. To experience not only the better known iconic/monumental side of it but also unite with this the spiritual and the emotional. An invaluable document in the hard-to-document world of performance art.
What an amazing journey. I fell in love with Marina the first time we met, when she was driving around in circles for days in a small car in Paris. I still love her and am inspired by her work. This biography reveals Marina in all of her beautiful contradictions.