When Marina Abramovic Dies

Last semester I read James Wescott’s biography, treat
 When Marina Abramovic Dies. It is a lengthy but worthwhile read. Doing research on the self proclaimed grandmother of performance art has been interesting and inspiring in ways that I did not expect. In my earnest desire to discover more about myself in her approach to performance, I found more who I am not. I find Abramovic extremely profound in her ability to create and open doors for herself professionally. Abramovic is from Belgrade, in the former communist Yugoslavia, and from an arts community with very specific borders on what art is and how to participate. As a Calgarian, I should be ashamed of my lack of initiation to open doors, or create them.

If she can rise from her experiences, I certainly should be able to rise from mine. What the general consensus is of Abramovic is that she has an undeniable charm and ability to seduce. I on the other hand, have this innate ability to be forgotten. I lay all my cards on the table and wear my heart on my sleeve. I say inappropriately intimate things and expect to be treated with the same affection. Abramovic in a way seems to have the same direct honesty, but with the ability to maintain allure and mystery. She is for all, but is never truly yours.

When Marina Abramovic Dies, James Wescott

“Friend making”, as my friend and ACAD alumni, Steven Cottingham put it at a lecture at ACAD, seems idealistic and a far cry from “networking”. It seems less threatening than being on the outside of who knows who. Am I put off because I don’t feel like I belong to the emerging arts community in Calgary? To a degree. It is like being the wallflower at a high school party. There, but awkwardly standing alone in a corner, desperately wanting to be cool. The core of me perhaps is equally naive about “friend making” or “networking” because I don’t want to be sucked into a scene. I have found that any “scene” tends to strip me of who I believe I am, through my need to become a mirror of peoples desires.

This is where I distrust Abramovic’s alchemy of transforming Marina into MARINA ABRAMOVIC. I want to be a successful artist. I want to be part of a community that cares about using their art as a platform to discuss difficult situations and experiences about humanity. I want to be understood. I want this to count for something. I also want to exist within Dayna. I want to be more than my art, but at the same time I want DAYNA ELLEN and Dayna to be a reflection of one another without any compromise.


Marina Abramovic + Ulay, Lovers: The Great Wall Walk, 1988



My understanding of her work is to revolve around mastering the self, especially pain, which I found difficult to connect with. I did find her final performance piece with Ulay, Lovers: The Great Wall Walk, to be extremely profound. Both in the magnitude of the walk across the Great Wall of China and the emotional connectivity explored. The walk was an act of meditation to ruminate over and over the end of a successful partnership and relationship.  There is something so heartbreakingly painful about this experience, which is universal and beautiful. An enormous poetic undertaking.

“Abramovic started at the eastern end of the Wall and Ulay started in the west, and they simply walked toward each other. Three months later they met roughly in the middle. The performance marked the end of their thirteen year professional and personal relationship.” – James Wescott

I honour MARINA, more as the grandmother of fearless self assertion, which ultimately allowed her to become the grandmother of performance art. When Marina Abramovic Dies has taught me little about how to ruminate on my current delve into performance art, other than sifting through some need to create some sort of spiritual experience. Mostly it has taught me to be brave and perseverant.


– Dayna