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Creating nothing and calling it something

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What do you do if you’re the long-time performance artist Marina Abramovic, age 67 out of ideas for your next show?

Let’s review. You’ve already tried, among other things, repeatedly jamming a knife between your fingers (and drawing blood at times), standing nude with a nude male in a narrow doorway for hours at a time and masturbating (off and on over a 7-hour period).
How do you follow that up? What tops performances like that? What’s left? Nothing, right?

Wait, that’s it – a show about nothing, about diddly-squat.

Yeah, this is good. This is so good, let’s make two shows on the subject. And so it came to pass: Abramovic’s show titled “Nothing. There is Nothing” at Serpentine Gallery in London (June 11-Aug. 25) and her show called “Marina Abramovic: Holding Emptiness” at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain (now through Aug. 31).

When you think about it, Abramovic’s shows about nothing are not that far from her show at MoMA in 2010 when she sat still in a straight-back chair like the figure in Whistler’s Mother, hands in lap staring fixedly at another seated figure staring back at her - a museum visitor –as many as 750,000 – for seven and a half hours every day for 90 days without food, drink or bathroom break.

And so it goes - performance art, a.k.a. alternative art. Not that hers are performed in alternative spaces, necessarily. Major museums around the world have been her venues, including the Stedelijk museum in the Netherlands, the Pompidou museum in Paris, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Museum of Modern Art, in Oxford, UK, the Irish Museum of Modern Art of Dublin, the State Historical Museum in Moscow, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in the New York (where the masturbation occurred 2005).

Abramovic is also on a TIME magazine list as one of the 100 most influential figures in the world.

The only question remaining is how do you follow up shows about nothing?

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