Marina Abramović and the age of the narcissist

So Spazju Kreattiv are screening the documentary The Space in Between: Marina Abramović and Brazil.

It’s touted to be a journey of self-discovery for the controversial Serbian artist as she travels through Brazil in search of personal healing, artistic inspiration and an experience of sacred rituals to reveal her creative process.

Now, I have never been a fan of Abramović’s personally.

Abramovic poster
The poster for the documentary on Serbian artist Abramović

There’s something that doesn’t gel with me in her ‘art’, I actually question whether it is art. Is there really the need to mutilate the body, for example? It’s been done before, of course, and perhaps, when she started, her journey was genuine, authentic, but somehow I now feel it is somewhat contrived, forced.

She is certainly living in the right age in my opinion, a time when self-aggrandisement is at its peak, when narcissism is rising to unprecedented levels (something I am highly allergic to), when new technology is constantly being developed towards self-adulation.

There are certainly beautiful moments, such as those born out of her The artist is present stint at the amazing MoMA.

But somehow, her art to me feels like it’s all about her and not about the art in itself. Yes, she posits herself as a canvas, but how much of it is for the joy/pain of making art as opposed to the need for herself to be at the centre of the framework all the time?

I get the distinct feeling that she isn’t serving art, but art is serving her.

Whereas I think it should, at the very least, be a two-way street. I feel she uses art as a means to self-gratify, I don’t think it’s a form of expression for her, I feel it’s heavily contrived. Of course, this is my judging her, but hey, she is putting herself out there precisely for that. In fact, I’m pretty sure she gets off on this.

But I’m not one to shy away from challenging myself so when I found out about the documentary screening I thought I might give it a shot, move outside my self-conscribed limitations and perhaps, in the process learn something new.

So there I was debating whether to go and watch it, knowing that had I decided to, I would probably walk out with a pit of anger deep in my stomach (vide reference to narcissism here above).

I decided to look into the documentary some more. And what I found shocked and disgusted me (but I guess that’s her game all along).

One of the people she is giving most prominence to in this documentary is this John of God or João de Deus, this self-professed healer who is, at least from my world view, into hocus pocus, which is all well and good, hocus pocus can be understood.

But not only is he into hocus pocus, he has raked in thousands off it, been accused of being a confidence trickster who has siphoned off cash for his personal gain and, worse still, as with all these ‘natural born leaders’ (read: cult leader), has of course been accused of sexually assaulting his staff members.

Chilling accounts by Australian journalists reveal, amongst other things, how he also ‘practices’ medicine without having any training and with rudimentary tools, developing what this self-declared prophet calls psychic surgery.

Abramovic John of God
Abramović with the controversial John of God during a psychic surgery at Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola, his spiritual healing center

He doesn’t know how to read or write but he signs off ‘prescriptions’ by the dozen for his ‘patients’. On examining the matter further, the journalist Tim Elliott finds that the on-site pharmacy (of course, where else?) only has one herbal remedy for sale so he wonders about the why of the presciption.

Elliott writes: When I ask Coppola [John of God’s assistant] about this, he explains that it’s not what’s in the capsules that counts, but rather the “spiritual prescription” that John of God writes for each patient. “The intentionality of that prescription is transferred to the capsules at the time of purchase,” Coppola says.

I mean, seriously… How can you give such space and visibility to someone like this? I just don’t get that. It’s verging on criminal.

No, this is not in the name of art. This is solely and purely in the name of Marina Abramović and I, for one, will not participate in this ship of fools.


3 thoughts on “Marina Abramović and the age of the narcissist

  1. Thank you for your thoughts. I once found Abromavic’s work intriguing but when I studied it further I discovered the narcissism you described. I honestly believe that if one truly regards her work they will find there is little of true substance. She is purely a celebrity. Also see her manifesto for art if you can. It reads like the tenets of a standard narc cult.


  2. Take a look at Google pictures with her name – mostly faces. An artistic narcissus blossoms convincingly, but doesn’t convince everyone.


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