Book Review- Walk through walls by Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic is an icon in the world of performance art. Her memoir ‘Walk through walls: A memoir’ has been published recently. Jey Sushil read the book and shares his view.

Photo from the twitter and FB profile of Marina abramovic

Reading ‘Walk through walls’ by Marina Abramovic’ was exciting in the beginning and I was so eager to know about the phenomenal artist that I read the book within 48 hours.

It was written in a simple way despite the fact that it talks about dense critical and abstract forms of performance art. Since there is a point defined, reading becomes easier to grasp.

After finishing the book which broke many myths about Marina (which I gathered in last few years about her supernatural abilities for endurance, the iconic love story of Marina-Ullay and many more), I took a break and started thinking about it.

Normally when I read a book I believe in whatever is written but then my mind thinks about the logicality and complexities of the text and then comes the urge to write about it. If I don’t feel about it I don’t write about it. (Remember the ‘Naive and sentimental novelist’ by Orhan Pamuk)

So, the first observation is that It’s not a memoir of Marina as it claims. It’s a memoir of Marina the artist not Marina the human being behind the artist.

Its only her art that she talks about in the book. Whatever events are happening in her life are side events. The centre is her performances.

Marina’s Iconic performances

  1. Marina and Ullay – Living door of the museum
  2. Marina and Ullay- The artist is present
  3. You tube link of Marina’s performances


She talks about her family (how bad they were, how good her father was, only in snippets), her first husband (in a glance actually, there is no mention of him about what happened to him after the divorce), relationship with Ullay (she gives her own version) another long relation with Paulo (who eventually leaves her) and then her friendship with Dalai lama, Susan Sontag, Lady Gaga..etc etc..

In between all you remember from the book is that she is endlessly performing. There is no life to live. There are performances only. She relates her love and breakup with Ullay also with performances which tells us that her life is nothing only about art.

The works of Marina-Ullay’s are fantastic and path breaking for sure but she does not mention the most powerful performance by them (according to me of course) in the book.

As we know Ullay and Marina travelled in a van for many years with their dog. They were asked for a performance in Paris. In that performance Ullay and Marina rode the van in a basement for more than 16 hours continuously. The tyres made a black circular mark on the marble of the floor which remained there for ten years.

Marina and Ullay interview

This performance was remarkable according to Ullay but this performance gets no mention in Marina’s Book. All other performances with Ullay are mentioned more or less.

Having no kid with Ullay or anyone was Marina’s decision and she thinks that might be one of the reasons why Ullay moved away from her though Ullay explains in one of the videos (which I googled and found after reading the book) that his reasons were quite different.

According to Ullay they were becoming some kind of Institution in themselves. As an ideal couple they were getting too much attention and it was uncomfortable for Ullay he is an anarchist by nature. On the other hand Marina loved and enjoyed the attention.

Marina puts this thing in her book as She becoming the face of the couple and probably Ullay was not comfortable with it.

After break-up with Ullay, Marina’s performances continued and she achieved greater heights in the art world.

For me personally Balkan Baroque in the Venis biennale is Marina’s best performance. She is not only cleaning the sins of the Balkan war but also her own sins. That’s why the piece becomes so intense.

She wins the Golden Lion award for it and continues with her work moving to meditation, Buddhism and shaman practices of Brazil in later period. She picks up elements from these practices and puts them in her art and performs.

Though I am not an art critic but these pieces look patchy to an extent. They might look revolutionary to the western eye but someone who is coming from India and had a basic sense of Yoga and power of Meditation…these artworks are bad inspirations of such beautiful practices. Though Marina pulls them off by her sheer beauty and Body which she uses again and again in her performances.

‘The Artist is Present’ looks grand but such experiences happens to Indians in their lives whoever is a bit serious about meditation. Let me confess that I was moved when I saw the performance on Facebook posts few years back and watched it many a times.

I realised after a while that people were watching Marina not her inner power as she claims. The whole notions of energy etc is the new Kitsch in ART. Everyone in Indian art galleries talking about this and people like us only smile at such things because for us its normal since childhood.

Talking about energy in such kitschy ways is demeaning to these beautiful/powerful notions.

The whole books talks about Marina’s mother’s abusive control which is strange. Which girl lives in mother’s house after their marriage only because her husband is poor. So the mother is good because she is rich and she can provide you with a room. When she looks after your needs, she will control the ethics of the house.

Marriage doesn’t mean convenience. That’s a strange part and I don’t think anyone would ask Marina why she did that. In all her relationship stories, the portrayal is that she was at loss but actually no one knows the story of Ullay or Paulo or her first husband. What they felt living with someone who is obsessed only with herself and her art.

Thats the reason why she feel lonely and tries to find solace in the meditation practices. She is lonely as a human being. Inflicting and enduring pain for art is not new but Marina has not only mastered it, she also revolutionised the whole generations of artists.

The use of body and Nudity which became so happening that in India (and I think in many places) artists are removing their clothes everywhere in the name of art and everyone’s seems to be praising such mindless acts. Nudity should have a purpose and if it is done without purpose it doesn’t help. It can make someone famous but that aura will not remain for long.

I would hope for a memoir of Marina as a human being. As an artist she made her mark…as a human being….Who am I to Judge?

2 thoughts on “Book Review- Walk through walls by Marina Abramovic

  • मुझे याद है इनका एक वीडियो वायरल हुआ था तब इनके बारे में जानने की कोशिश की थी. नाम तो पहले भी सुना हुआ था लेकिन सच मानिए कभी इनके और इनके काम के बारे में जानने की उत्सुकता नहीं हुई थी. फिर वो वीडियो आया तो कुछ गूगल किया. और कुछ परफॉर्मेंसेस देखे भी. उन परफॉर्मेंसेस में वो नहीं दिखा. क्या कहते हैं उसे….यानि ज्यादा देर तक पकड़कर नहीं रखा.लेकिन जिस तरह से आज आपने लिखा है एक जिज्ञासा जरुर पैदा हुई है इन्हें और इनके जीवन के बारे में और जानने की. वैसे भी इंसान के जीवनी-संघर्ष को पढ़ा जाना थोड़ा उसकी तरह जी लेना भी होता है. और हाँ जाते-जाते एक बात बताता चलूँ, जिस दिन ये वायरल वीडियो देखा था तो कुछ पल के लिए आँखे बंद करके देखा भी था कि सच मैं कैसा फील होता होगा जब दो प्रेमी वर्षों बाद मिलते होंगे 🙂 और हाँ मौक़ा लगे तो उधर भी ख़ुशी के रंगों से वहां के लोगों की घर की दीवारें रंग आना.

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