Yesterday, Marina Abramovic successfully funded her $600,000 goal on Kickstarter, which ended up getting a total of $661,452 for the Marina Abramovic Institute. She’s released a few videos leading up to this final victory, including one of Lady Gaga performing the Abramovic Method naked in the woods. While you may have caught her spinning around onstage with Jay Z during his “Picasso Baby” performance at Pace Gallery or saw her name dropped on Frank Ocean‘s “Versace” remix, there’s a lot more to the self-proclaimed grandmother of performance art. Throughout her career, she’s been passionate and focused on her medium, more often than not risking her life for art, and she continues with her new institute.
Read on for 17 Things You Didn’t Know About Marina Abramovic.
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She played Russian Roulette with her mother’s pistol when she was 14 years old.
This was depicted in Robert Wilson’s play about her life, “The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic,” where Marina’s difficult relationship with her mother during childhood is shown in detail. Ironically, Abramovic decided to play her mother in the 2011 debut of the play. It will be playing at the Park Avenue Armory in New York this December.
When she was younger, she tried to break her nose to force her parents to pay for plastic surgery.
This is also shown in “The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic,” indicating her passion from a young age and her difficult relationship with her parents. It also foreshadows her running away from her home town of Belgrade at 29 years old. She told the Daily Beast in 2012, “When I was 14, I thought I looked terrible. I wore these typical Slavic shoes with metal bottoms so you could always hear me coming and this really ugly princess skirt and blouse with the top button closed. I had a boy haircut, a baby face covered with pimples, and a really big nose. My only dream in life at the time was to have Brigitte Bardot’s nose.”
Before she learned about performance art, she pursued painting as a child and used to paint “big socialistic trucks crashed together” and “little innocent socialistic toy trucks.”
She has said that her epiphany to become a performance artist came from being dismissed as having a nervous breakdown when she asked a military officer if she could fly in one of the planes “to paint the sky with smoke.” She says, “From that day on, I never painted again. Instead I started looking at what is around me and using it for art. It took me just a little while to realise that I could be my art.”
After she escaped Belgrade at age 29, she knitted sweaters for a living.
During the years when she wasn’t able to make money doing performance art, she had multiple other jobs to support herself.
She lived with Aborigines in the outback of Australia for one year.
In addition to Tibetan culture, Marina Abramovic cites Aboriginal culture as a major influence for her. She lived with Aborigines in central Australia during the ’80s. She says, “I learned from those two cultures ways of controlling my physical/mental body.”
During that time, she raised a baby kangaroo.
In a recent video, Marina Abramovic shares that the closest she’s ever been to having a child is during the time she raised a baby kangaroo whose mother had just been killed by the Aboriginal tribe she was living with. She has said in multiple interviews and her recent Reddit AMA that she will not get married or have children.
She believes that artists shouldn’t fall in love with other artists.
As part of her An Artist’s Life Manifesto, Marina Abramovic says that “an artist should avoid falling in love with another artist.” During her Reddit AMA on July 31, she explains, “I have done this three times and each time I had the heart broke. This comes from my own personal experience. It’s very competitive situation, and it’s a very complicated story I cannot answer in a few words. It’s a matter of longer conversation. But the best is to look [at the] history of artists living together from the past to now and see how many tragic ends are there.”
In 1997, she performed a piece called Balkan Baroque, where she scrubbed 1,500 cow bones for six hours a day.
The piece was for the Venice Biennale. During it, she also sang songs and told stories about Belgrade, where she was born. In an interview with The Guardian, she says, “When people ask me where I am from, I never say Serbia. I always say I come from a country that no longer exists.”
For one of her pieces, she carved the five-point Communist star on her stomach with a razor blade.
In the early ’70s Marina Abramovic performed Lips of Thomas, a piece where she carved the five-point Communist star on her stomach with a razor blade, whipped herself, and then layed on a bed of ice (shaped like a cross) on a heater for 30 minutes. Her grandmother once found her passed out while doing the performance, and she had burned off her hair.
For another piece, she masturbated at the Guggenheim underneath the floor that an audience walked on.
In 2005, Marina Abramovic recreated Vito Acconci’s 1972 piece Seedbed at the Guggenheim as an ode to performance art of the past, claiming to have had nine loud orgasms during the piece. She also performed works by Bruce Nauman and Gina Pane.
Her work inspired an episode of Sex and the City.
During the sixth season of “Sex and the City,” in episode 86, Carrie Bradshaw meets Aleksandr Petrovsky at an art gallery opening, where a performance artist is sleeping in a gallery without food or water. It was inspired by a piece where she did the same at Sean Kelly Gallery titled The House with the Ocean View.
She sold one of her three lofts in SoHo to Givenchy Creative Director Riccardo Tisci for $3.06 million.
In Marina’s recent Reddit AMA, she said that she and Riccardo Tisci “are very good friends. He is a part of my artist family. He is original creator and I respect him. Plus, we have lots of fun together, which is important.” They are so close that she sold one of her three SoHo apartments to him on King St. between Varick and Sixth Avenue.
She was also in a Givenchy ad alongside Kate Moss.
Riccardo and Marina are so close that she appeared in an ad for Givenchy’s Spring 2013 campaign.
People think she is a vampire.
More than one person asked Marina if she is a vampire during her recent Reddit AMA, to which she responded that Montenegro people “live long and never age.”
James Franco is giving her complete creative control to make a movie about his life.
Similar to how Robert Wilson made a play about Marina Abramovic’s life, Marina is making a film about James Franco’s life. She said that he has given her tons of footage and that she has creative control over how she will tell his story. As to why she’s doing it, she says, “I think he’s the most interesting actor of the moment. Why? Because he takes risks and when you take risks, you can fail. But he takes failure and risk all with the same intensity. He could just be another Hollywood actor and that’s it–like everyone else. But he’s crossing all kinds of borders and not always with great success. For him, process is more important than the result.”
She’s in an Antony and the Johnsons music video.
In August 2012, Marina Abramovic appeared in the Antony and the Johnsons video for “Cut the World,” directed by Nabil Elderkin and acted by Willem Dafoe and Carice van Houten. The video is about women taking the world back from men.