Marina Abramović has used her body as a radical tool of expression like no other artist before her and provoked conflicting opinions of her work around the world. Cutting herself with a razor blade, screaming until her voice broke, laying naked on blocks of ice are just some expressions of her artistry. Marina Abramović is famous worldwide for her performances in which she explores her own experience and continues to test her physical and psychological limits.

Marina returned to her home city, Belgrade, after almost 50 years. Her last exhibition in Belgrade was in 1975, and in October 2019 she came back with her biggest retrospective exhibition so far, named The Cleaner”. She said that it was her most important show since The Artist is Presentfrom the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2010.  

The Cleanerdisplayed over 120 works from the 1960s to the present day and included her early works from the Student Cultural Centre Belgrade, performances with her former partner Ulay, paintings, drawings, and objects. During the 1960s and 1970s in Yugoslavia, no one else was making art in this way.

Some of the works, including Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful” and Imponderabilia” were reperformed by mostly Serbian performers. Twelve performers,  out of more than a hundred who applied, were selected to enact the live reperformances of Marina Abramović’s works and to take part in her three-day master class held at a secret location.

The exhibition was a major talking point in the city, partly because it was the biggest and the most expensive exhibition in the history of the Museum of Contemporary Arts where it was presented.

In deciding to do her biggest exhibition in her hometown, Marina Abramović put Belgrade on the cultural map of the world. The Belgrade exhibition is the last stop on a tour that began at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 2017 and continued on to Copenhagen, Bonn, and Louisiana, among other cities.

screaming with 5,000 people

Abramović gave a public lecture in the park in front of the museum for 5,000 people. At one point, all of them had to hold on to each other as a part of her performance. She showed photos from her childhood to the audience on two large displays.

They also tried to reperform her famous performance AAA – AAA” from 1978, which she did with Ulay. The 5,000 people all screamed at the same time, and it was a scene that she, and most probably those present as well, will never forget.

There is no visual artist who has ever performed in front of such an audience, at least not that I know of. That is why this evening is very special to me. Interaction with the audience makes performance art and without you, I would not exist.

Marina's press conference was held at 6:23 am on the morning of the exhibition opening, and was physically challenging, just as performance art is.  

Abramović explains the title of the exhibition like this:

Cleaning is a metaphor for me;  cleansing the past, cleansing the mind.

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