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Pure presence

23 Sep 2015 Jade Kerste

Marina Abramović
en haar performancekunst als therapie

Marina Abramović’s performance art as therapy
In this thesis I investigate the therapeutic functioning of the performance art of Marina Abramović (1946). Her latest performances The Artist is Present (2010), 512 Hours (2014) and Generator (2014) have a very evident and intended therapeutic effect: these works are meant to help the public. They give the participants a space where they can (re)connect to themselves, to others and to the world through meditation exercises and energy exchange. The earlier performances do not have as obvious a therapeutic function, but they do have meditative and ritual qualities. In this thesis I investigate this development from performances with a meditative and ritual dimension to performances with a therapeutic function. I pose the question: ‘do Marina Abramović’s performances have a therapeutic effect on the public and, if so, how?’ I answer this question by taking two different perspectives. Firstly, I discuss a selection of Abramović’s performances to determine whether or not they have meditative or therapeutic qualities, with the help of secondary literature on Abramović’s work and the artist’s own statements. Secondly, I look at Abramović’s works from the perspective of theories about therapeutic art. This way, I can provide a context to the therapeutic dimension of Abramović’s work. For this, I use various publications of art critic Donald Kuspit about therapeutic art and the book Art as Therapy (2013) by philosophers Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. Towards the end of this thesis I also address the question: should Abramović’s late, therapeutic work be seen as art or as therapy?

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