The Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle Budapest presents Marina Abramovic’s video installation entitled Eight Lessons on Emptiness with a Happy End in Mélycsarnok, the exhibition hall’s new project gallery established this year.
This work, made in 2008, addresses the topic of violence as it is portrayed in contemporary media.
The five channels of the installation, recorded in Laos, are organized in a long frieze, consisting of one central image flanked by two vertical and two horizontal ones. They alternate between archetypical scenes of warfare, referring to television and video games, and images from nature – a waterfall, an island and a Spirit Tree – which relate to spiritual life in Laos. The warfare scenes, enacted by children and Marina Abramovic herself, encourage compassion and responsibility. The title of the work refers to the traditional Buddhist notion of emptiness – emptying the mind to allow transformation to a different state, in this case to achieve purification through the viewing process. Ideologically, '8 Lessons on Emptiness with a Happy End' differs from most political-activist contemporary work, which usually has an opposing quality; here, Marina Abramovic calls for compassion, critiques violence and its representation, and offers an opportunity for redemption.
As a special feature of the Budapest exhibition, by courtesy of the artist and Galerie Guy Bärtschi in Geneva, a few of the original drawings that were made in preparation for the video installation are also on view, as well as the maquette of the house that was built for the project and served as the setting for the video shoot.
Marina Abramovic, a world renowned artist born in Belgrade and now living in New York, has been engaged in the genre of performance art since the seventies. The “grandmother of performance art,” as she likes to refer to herself, has recently founded an institute with the aim of teaching and preserving performance art. She places special emphasis on determining the reception of her performances, as well on the documenting and re-performing of her works. In her art, the body simultaneously becomes the subject and the object, which often leads her to the limits of her own body. During her performances, she employs the techniques of emptying out and transformation, in order to create the appropriate conditions for reaching a higher level of existence both in herself and in the audience. She presented the longest performance of her life during her sensational retrospective show at New York’s MoMA last year, where, for two and a half months, she sat at a table during museum hours waiting for visitors to sit down across from her (The Artist Is Present).