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The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic

This past weekend marked the end of the Manchester International Festival, a biennial, artist-led event that has, in the past, played host to artists like Matthew Barney and Olafur Eliasson, among others. This year performance artist extraordinaire, Marina Abramović, took to the stage for a run of six theatrical performances of “The Life and Death of Marina Abramović.”

Directed by Robert Wilson and co-starring Willem Dafoe (who couldn’t be a more perfect choice for the part of the psycho-creep he seems to play, at least that’s what I made of his crazy pants-look in the YouTube teaser), Abramović’s play is biographical up until her imagined death, and includes some not-so-precious childhood memories, like the time she flung herself off of her parents’ bed in an attempt to break her nose so she could have it fixed to look like Brigitte Bardot’s. Instead, she cut her cheek and was scolded by her mother with a slap on the face. Abramović took on the role of her mother in the play, which sounds like an act of cathartic revenge straight from the psychiatrist’s couch.

Abramović said that she chose the context of a theatrical performance for this piece instead of her typical, intimate gallery space affairs because it gave her the necessary distance from her real life required for the project. That’s kind of a surprising comment from someone who has nearly suffocated in a five-pointed star filled with ignited gasoline and sliced up her belly with a razor blade – all in front of an audience. If any woman can be said to have balls, it’s Marina Abramović, yet it goes to show that some things are too personal, even for her.