A research exploration of fashion and resilience by MA Fashion Studies graduate Kim Jenkins
I recently watched artist Marina Abramović’s documentary, “The Artist is Present” (2012) on HBO, and while watching this spectacular film on her body of work, I was surprised with a scene that spoke to my thesis. As Marina discussed the moment when the relationship with her artistic partner Ulay Laysiepen dissolved, she found herself at age 40 and at a crossroads in her identity. It was then that she had to take stock of her artistic passion, who she truly was stylistically, and to carry on as a solo artist. When Marina began preparing for her MoMA show, “The Artist is Present”, she developed a collaborative relationship with Riccardo Tisci from the fashion design house Givenchy, and a new, fiery Marina Abramavić was born.
Check out this video from Art21 as Marina describes her embrace of fashion:
Episode #155: Filmed at her New York office in 2011, Marina Abramović discusses how her relationship to fashion and femininity have evolved over the course of a 40-year career. In the 1970s, Abramović relied upon stark, neutral performance uniforms that were always either “naked or dirty black or dirty white.” She reached a turning point in 1988 after the dissolution of her artistic collaboration with Ulay Laysiepen, which culminated in “The Great Wall Walk” (1988). Abramović’s subsequent embrace of fashion and femininity parallel her re-emergence as a solo performance artist in the 1990s and 2000s.
A pioneer of performance as a visual art form, Marina Abramović uses her body as both subject and medium in performances that test physical, mental, and emotional limits—often pushing beyond them and even risking her life—in a quest for heightened consciousness, transcendence, and self-transformation. Characterized by repetitive behavior, actions of long duration, and intense public interactions, Abramović’s work engages universal themes of life and death as recurring motifs, while drawing on the artist’s personal biography and reflecting contemporary events.
Photo Credit: Dusan Reljin for ELLE Serbia.