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When Marina Abramović Dies: A Biography

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"When Marina Abramović Dies" examines the extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most pioneering artists of her generation--and one who is still at the forefront of contemporary art today. This intimate, critical biography chronicles Abramović's formative and until now undocumented years in Yugoslavia, and tells the story of her partnership with the German "When Marina Abramović Dies" examines the extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most pioneering artists of her generation--and one who is still at the forefront of contemporary art today. This intimate, critical biography chronicles Abramović's formative and until now undocumented years in Yugoslavia, and tells the story of her partnership with the German artist Ulay--one of the twentieth century's great examples of the fusion of artistic and private life. In one of many long-durational performances in the renewed solo career that followed, Abramović famously lived in a New York gallery for twelve days without eating or speaking, nourished only by prolonged eye contact with audience members. It was here, in 2002, that author James Westcott first encountered her, beginning an exceptionally close relation between biographer and subject. "When Marina Abramović Dies" draws on Westcott's personal observations of Abramović, his unprecedented access to her archive, and hundreds of hours of interviews he conducted with the artist and the people closest to her. The result is a unique and vivid portrait of the charismatic self-proclaimed "grandmother of performance art.""


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"When Marina Abramović Dies" examines the extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most pioneering artists of her generation--and one who is still at the forefront of contemporary art today. This intimate, critical biography chronicles Abramović's formative and until now undocumented years in Yugoslavia, and tells the story of her partnership with the German "When Marina Abramović Dies" examines the extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most pioneering artists of her generation--and one who is still at the forefront of contemporary art today. This intimate, critical biography chronicles Abramović's formative and until now undocumented years in Yugoslavia, and tells the story of her partnership with the German artist Ulay--one of the twentieth century's great examples of the fusion of artistic and private life. In one of many long-durational performances in the renewed solo career that followed, Abramović famously lived in a New York gallery for twelve days without eating or speaking, nourished only by prolonged eye contact with audience members. It was here, in 2002, that author James Westcott first encountered her, beginning an exceptionally close relation between biographer and subject. "When Marina Abramović Dies" draws on Westcott's personal observations of Abramović, his unprecedented access to her archive, and hundreds of hours of interviews he conducted with the artist and the people closest to her. The result is a unique and vivid portrait of the charismatic self-proclaimed "grandmother of performance art.""

30 review for When Marina Abramović Dies: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gorgona Grim

    "Kad Marina Abramović umre" Džejmsa Vestkota je delo koje predstavlja celokupni opus umetnice do 2011. godine kada je knjiga izašla iz štampe. Obzirom na to da je u pitanju biografija, sasvim prigodno i očekivano saznajemo detalje iz života Marine Abramović koji nam kontekstualizuju nastanak njenih radova i pomažu nam da razumemo ne samo njena dela, već i nju samu. Iako sam svesna da je u pitanju biografija i da je gospodin Vestkot nesumnjivo uložio veliki napor da intervjuiše Marinu i sve to zab "Kad Marina Abramović umre" Džejmsa Vestkota je delo koje predstavlja celokupni opus umetnice do 2011. godine kada je knjiga izašla iz štampe. Obzirom na to da je u pitanju biografija, sasvim prigodno i očekivano saznajemo detalje iz života Marine Abramović koji nam kontekstualizuju nastanak njenih radova i pomažu nam da razumemo ne samo njena dela, već i nju samu. Iako sam svesna da je u pitanju biografija i da je gospodin Vestkot nesumnjivo uložio veliki napor da intervjuiše Marinu i sve to zabeleži na odgovarajući način, način na koji su ti intervjui, ta svedočenja prenesena kroz naraciju u trećem licu stvaraju na pojedinim mestima utisak neverodostojnosti. Taj utisak je najjači prilikom čitanja o najranijoj mladosti umetnice, tačnije od njenog rođenja i tokom njenih adolescentskih godina. Deluje iznenađujuće taj spokojni prizvuk koje sa sobom nosi naracija jer čitate o zapostavljenosti, bolu i neshvatanju između ostalih negativnih doživljaja i taj prizvuk vas ostavlja u neverici. Ovo je ujedno moja jedina zamerka. Uz detaljni osvrt na celokupnu umetničku karijeru i lične komentare same umetnice, verovatno najdragoceniji segment ove knjige su fotografije koje prate svaku od priča, a čiji je značajni deo upravo iz arhive porodice Abramović. Ukoliko je naracija kroz treće lice stvorila mestimični utisak neverodostojnosti, gledajući fotografije iz lične arhive uz dokumentarne fotografije, svaka linija teksta postaje značajnija i briše prethodni utisak.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kim Lacey

    Run, don't walk. One of the best books I've ever read (and that's saying a lot). If you've ever been curious about performance art or even if you're well versed in it, read this book. Westcott will teach you something about Marina, but there's so much more between these covers. I found it very useful for a project I'm working on about presence and temporality. Beautifully written--a complex, yet accessible, text. Run, don't walk. One of the best books I've ever read (and that's saying a lot). If you've ever been curious about performance art or even if you're well versed in it, read this book. Westcott will teach you something about Marina, but there's so much more between these covers. I found it very useful for a project I'm working on about presence and temporality. Beautifully written--a complex, yet accessible, text.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    I read to alter my ideas of the world, some books alter it a lot, others not so much. This book falls into the former. Abramovic is a Serbian performance artist. Now in her sixties, Wescott, one of Abramovic’s, assistants, traces her career since the late sixties. I was impressed Abramovic’s almost masochistic dedication to her artistic vision and how she uses her body to accomplish that vision in her performances. She uses the female body as the ultimate object of the gaze, whether living in “h I read to alter my ideas of the world, some books alter it a lot, others not so much. This book falls into the former. Abramovic is a Serbian performance artist. Now in her sixties, Wescott, one of Abramovic’s, assistants, traces her career since the late sixties. I was impressed Abramovic’s almost masochistic dedication to her artistic vision and how she uses her body to accomplish that vision in her performances. She uses the female body as the ultimate object of the gaze, whether living in “house” where audiences file in and out of the room to watch her daily routine as in House with an Ocean View or hanging suspended in a crucified pose as in The Biography Remix.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William Burr

    A beautiful and engrossing tribute to this artist. I started out a little dubious, after receiving this book as a gift from a friend, and I fell in love with Marina over the course of reading it. '"I'm only interested in an art which can change the ideology of society....Art which is only committed to aesthetic values is incomplete.'" "'...When I come to the limits of my resistance, I feel terribly alive.'" "As in her best performances, Abramovic made the guests feel exultant and blessed. And as i A beautiful and engrossing tribute to this artist. I started out a little dubious, after receiving this book as a gift from a friend, and I fell in love with Marina over the course of reading it. '"I'm only interested in an art which can change the ideology of society....Art which is only committed to aesthetic values is incomplete.'" "'...When I come to the limits of my resistance, I feel terribly alive.'" "As in her best performances, Abramovic made the guests feel exultant and blessed. And as in her performances, the outside world and a normal sense of time disappeared. I asked someone for the time and found out it was past midnight, hours later than I'd expected."

  5. 4 out of 5

    ania

    "It might have been one of her father's mystery gifts (he once gave Marina a potted plant, without telling her that the real gift, a pair of tights, was wrapped in plastic and buried in the soil)" "Olszanski kept a Bible in the freezer, and every day made a performance out of prying it open and reading a new passage." "Marina watched the daily ceremonies of the women she lived with, in which they acted out the dreams they had the night before." "It might have been one of her father's mystery gifts (he once gave Marina a potted plant, without telling her that the real gift, a pair of tights, was wrapped in plastic and buried in the soil)" "Olszanski kept a Bible in the freezer, and every day made a performance out of prying it open and reading a new passage." "Marina watched the daily ceremonies of the women she lived with, in which they acted out the dreams they had the night before."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    Wow people really love this one! It's certainly comprehensive--maybe more in-depth at times than Abramovic's own memoir but I preferred reading the memoir :) For Abramovic completionists! Wow people really love this one! It's certainly comprehensive--maybe more in-depth at times than Abramovic's own memoir but I preferred reading the memoir :) For Abramovic completionists!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    After reading the book "The museum of modern love" I wanted to know a little bit more about Marina Abramovic, her life, her roots and about her art. So I found this book in my local library. What a nice, an expensive and complete book, everything about Marina Abramovic, her biography almost in her own words. A beautiful book with a lot of photographs of Marina and her family, early childhood and later years, photographs of her partnets and husbands as well as a huge amount of the photographs rel After reading the book "The museum of modern love" I wanted to know a little bit more about Marina Abramovic, her life, her roots and about her art. So I found this book in my local library. What a nice, an expensive and complete book, everything about Marina Abramovic, her biography almost in her own words. A beautiful book with a lot of photographs of Marina and her family, early childhood and later years, photographs of her partnets and husbands as well as a huge amount of the photographs related to Marina's art, the performance art. The book is very open, politics of Serbia and in Yugoslavia after the Sec. World War and prior to the shameful civil war in ex Yugoslavia which started in 1991. There are some of Marina's personal views on politics in Serbia and ex-Yugoslavia which deeply affected Marina and she decided to leave Belgrade and her job in Novi Sad. Marina is definitely a hard worker and her life in prooving herself and her art was not easy. Hard, hard, a lot of problems and plenty of success. I admire Marina Abramovic for her hard work, admire her strong spirit (especially after split with Ulay), also for her openness and for telling everything (nothing is hidden) in this book. I wouldn't like to see Marina's work in the real life. Especially not the ones where she put real snakes on her head, where she cut (sliced) her skin... Don't think that Marina's art is my kind of art. I have a lot of respect for Serbian art, love Serbian literature, theatre, film, folklore, food, people... In this biography I really liked Marina's mother, Danica Abramovic. Her strong character came out also in "The museum of modern love".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    When reading artist bios, what I’m mostly after is a sense of the subject’s lifestyle and creative process. Autobiography/memoir is what I usually seek but I figured I’d try “When Marina Abramovic Dies” before “Marina Abramovic” published by Phaidon. The former had a larger page count and a morbid title, which I like, but, unlike the later, it isn't authored by the artist. Turns out it also had a lot of filler I found uninteresting, all related to the author’s life, just a little too exhaustive. When reading artist bios, what I’m mostly after is a sense of the subject’s lifestyle and creative process. Autobiography/memoir is what I usually seek but I figured I’d try “When Marina Abramovic Dies” before “Marina Abramovic” published by Phaidon. The former had a larger page count and a morbid title, which I like, but, unlike the later, it isn't authored by the artist. Turns out it also had a lot of filler I found uninteresting, all related to the author’s life, just a little too exhaustive. The later is actually the perfect size and is almost all from the artist’s perspective. Also, its physical dimensions are much larger, like a coffee table book, which makes all the great photos really kick out. “When Marina Abramovic Dies” does have some virtues. In the section on Ulay, one really gets a sense of the strain that constant performance has on their relationship. Ultimately I didn’t find it interesting enough to keep reading with all the books I want to get to this month, next month, next year… so it became one of the victims of The Great Book Purge of September 2016 without my even having finished it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Helena Eflerova

    Incredible biographical journey through Marina Abramovic life completely immersed in her art practice. As reader I feel like becoming her close friend and soul mate, witnessing her sins and achievements. The book it's self is written in very accessible language. I like the fact that it is written from close and intimate view by someone who was part of her daily life and managed to include Marina subjective point of view. Appears to be incredibly honest, but you never know drawing attention on Ma Incredible biographical journey through Marina Abramovic life completely immersed in her art practice. As reader I feel like becoming her close friend and soul mate, witnessing her sins and achievements. The book it's self is written in very accessible language. I like the fact that it is written from close and intimate view by someone who was part of her daily life and managed to include Marina subjective point of view. Appears to be incredibly honest, but you never know drawing attention on Marina two persona 'diva and vulnerable girl'. Her personal life sacrifices she made is very painful leaving reader asking your self do you have to do the some to get there? Collective women artist dilemma. I can associate with her life even more as being East European woman performance artist my self. Well at the end Marina Abramovic is the grandmother of performance art and I hold very high value of her professional achievement. This book is just another step to getting knowing or understanding her a bit more and sharing our anxieties a women artists.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leggere A Colori

    La formazione artistica e la vita di Marina sono raccontate come un romanzo, arricchito da numerose foto e ricostruito in base alle interviste alla stessa Marina, ai familiari, agli amici, agli uomini della sua vita. L’autore, già collaboratore della Abramovic, descrive minuziosamente la meticolosa preparazione e la realizzazione delle performance di Marina, sia in coppia con il suo ex compagno Ulay, sia da sola negli ultimi 20 anni, con uno stile elegantemente didascalico che è in necessario con La formazione artistica e la vita di Marina sono raccontate come un romanzo, arricchito da numerose foto e ricostruito in base alle interviste alla stessa Marina, ai familiari, agli amici, agli uomini della sua vita. L’autore, già collaboratore della Abramovic, descrive minuziosamente la meticolosa preparazione e la realizzazione delle performance di Marina, sia in coppia con il suo ex compagno Ulay, sia da sola negli ultimi 20 anni, con uno stile elegantemente didascalico che è in necessario contrasto con la passione, la vitalità, il forte impatto emotivo dell’arte e della personalità di Marina Abramovic. Continua a leggere su http://www.leggereacolori.com/letti-e...

  11. 5 out of 5

    usquequaque

    « A mio avviso Marina si è considerata un'istituzione sin dall'inizio. Non penso si veda molto come una persona. Io dico sempre che un bel quadro di Van Gogh non può stare in una collezione privata ma deve appartenere a un grande museo. E credo che una persona come Marina non appartenga a un singolo individuo, ma sia di tutti.» Tutti tranne lei stessa, ma questo era un prezzo che era sempre stata pronta a pagare. « A mio avviso Marina si è considerata un'istituzione sin dall'inizio. Non penso si veda molto come una persona. Io dico sempre che un bel quadro di Van Gogh non può stare in una collezione privata ma deve appartenere a un grande museo. E credo che una persona come Marina non appartenga a un singolo individuo, ma sia di tutti.» Tutti tranne lei stessa, ma questo era un prezzo che era sempre stata pronta a pagare.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Josie

    This book charts the evolution of Marina's work from student to mature artist at her 60th Birthday. I am a huge fan of Marina's work and found the book interesting in tracing her artistic time line , however, as this is a biography and more 'work' focused, there is not much insight into Marina the person. To compliment this book, I have just bought Marina's autobiography. As her work is so deeply personal I feel like I need to read both to get the complete picture. This book charts the evolution of Marina's work from student to mature artist at her 60th Birthday. I am a huge fan of Marina's work and found the book interesting in tracing her artistic time line , however, as this is a biography and more 'work' focused, there is not much insight into Marina the person. To compliment this book, I have just bought Marina's autobiography. As her work is so deeply personal I feel like I need to read both to get the complete picture.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

    I'm really intrigued by Marina Abramovic, and it was great to learn more about her performances and legacy from this book. However, there's so much detail about her early childhood, her parents' past, and her works with Ulay that devoting so few pages to the years 1990–present seems like a let down. I'm really intrigued by Marina Abramovic, and it was great to learn more about her performances and legacy from this book. However, there's so much detail about her early childhood, her parents' past, and her works with Ulay that devoting so few pages to the years 1990–present seems like a let down.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    The writing was a bit choppy at times with poor transition and pacing (the beginning and end felt a little bit rushed), and a handful of grammatical mistakes. But overall, I loved the story and didn't want it to end. Westcott's insights were smart, articulate, and extremely telling of Abramovic's controlling yet charismatic persona and undying love for performance. The writing was a bit choppy at times with poor transition and pacing (the beginning and end felt a little bit rushed), and a handful of grammatical mistakes. But overall, I loved the story and didn't want it to end. Westcott's insights were smart, articulate, and extremely telling of Abramovic's controlling yet charismatic persona and undying love for performance.

  15. 4 out of 5

    RoxannaP

    I learned a lot from this book, about Abramovic and also about performance art, but I am still not fully "decided' on my opinion of the artist or the "art." This is not a failing of the book, however. Thanks to this biography, I have a much larger list of artists and works to explore further. I learned a lot from this book, about Abramovic and also about performance art, but I am still not fully "decided' on my opinion of the artist or the "art." This is not a failing of the book, however. Thanks to this biography, I have a much larger list of artists and works to explore further.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zam

    Una biografia esaustiva che consiglio a chiunque voglia saperne di più sulla "nonna della performance art", ovvero Marina Abramovich, o voglia semplicemente avvicinarsi a questo filone dell'arte contemporanea, per comprenderla meglio. 4.5 stelle Una biografia esaustiva che consiglio a chiunque voglia saperne di più sulla "nonna della performance art", ovvero Marina Abramovich, o voglia semplicemente avvicinarsi a questo filone dell'arte contemporanea, per comprenderla meglio. 4.5 stelle

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    One of the best biographies I've read in ages. Her life and work is really inspiring and brave - and I normally don't lust after female role models. Probably all about my impending (or actually here) middle age. She's 60+ now and as rad as she ever was. One of the best biographies I've read in ages. Her life and work is really inspiring and brave - and I normally don't lust after female role models. Probably all about my impending (or actually here) middle age. She's 60+ now and as rad as she ever was.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alessia

    Interessante, illuminante, affascinante come Marina Abramovic e la sua arte. Splendide le fotografie. Meravigliosa lei.

  19. 4 out of 5

    jennifer

    this is beautiful and moving and about everything (well, everything within certain heteronormative boundaries). congratulations james!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Frustrating. It's hard not to hate biographies of living people. Frustrating. It's hard not to hate biographies of living people.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    If you are at all interested in Marina Abramovic or the history of performance art, I cannot recommend enough. Very powerful and inspiring.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    It was serendipitous I should read this book while also watching Sex in the City. I'd assumed no overlap. It was serendipitous I should read this book while also watching Sex in the City. I'd assumed no overlap.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julian

    We should be more like her.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Marina Abramovic is amazing. Read this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    M. Mastromatteo

    Bursting with energy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    This is an insightful and intriguing read that not only details Abramovic’s life, but provides insight into the history and context of performance art. I had never considered it, as a discipline, in the social and political context of the twentieth century. The places the artist originated from, preformed in, and made their homes also provide an interesting context for the genre at large. If you are a fan, you will undoubtedly enjoy this. However, I would more exuberantly recommend it to the ret This is an insightful and intriguing read that not only details Abramovic’s life, but provides insight into the history and context of performance art. I had never considered it, as a discipline, in the social and political context of the twentieth century. The places the artist originated from, preformed in, and made their homes also provide an interesting context for the genre at large. If you are a fan, you will undoubtedly enjoy this. However, I would more exuberantly recommend it to the reticent, or unconvinced audience. The purpose of the book is not sell the art, and you may be left just as skeptical or unimpressed with performance art in the end. The context and insight are still of value.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rick Jones

    This is maybe not the best writing, but Abramovic is SO COMPELLING, read it anyway. If you want to understand the currents of performance art and get some insights into conceptual art practice, this is a good place to start. Really enjoyable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ill.gamesh

    I've also read Marina's autobiography. This biography goes into more detail about her works than the autobiography. I've also read Marina's autobiography. This biography goes into more detail about her works than the autobiography.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gordana

    One of the best book I’ve ever read!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elvan Ayverdi

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