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Rituals and repetitions : the displacement of context in Marina Abramovic's Seven Easy Pieces Tomic, Milena


This thesis considers Seven Easy Pieces, Marina Abramović’s 2005 cycle of re-performances at the Guggenheim Museum, as part of a broader effort to recuperate the art of the 1960s and 1970s. In re-creating canonical pieces known to her solely through fragmentary documentation, Abramović helped to bring into focus how performances by Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, Gina Pane, Vito Acconci, Valie Export, and herself were being re-coded by the mediating institutions. Stressing the production of difference, my analysis revolves around two of the pieces in detail. First, the Deleuzian insight that repetition produces difference sheds light on the artist’s embellishment of her own Lips of Thomas (1975) with a series of Yugoslav partisan symbols. What follows is an examination of the enduring role of this iconography, exploring the 1970s Yugoslav context as well as the more recent phenomenon of “Balkan Art,” an exhibition trend drawing upon orientalizing discourse. While the very presence of these works in Tito’s Yugoslavia complicates the situation, I show how the transplanted vocabulary of body art may be read against the complex interweaving of official rhetoric and dissident activity. I focus on two distinct interpretations of Marxism: first, the official emphasis on discipline and the body as material producer, and second, the critique of the cult of personality as well as dissident notions about the role of practice in social transformation. It is in this sense that a distinctly spiritualist vocabulary also acquires a political dimension in drawing upon movements such as Fluxus and Neo-Dada, and underscoring the value of the immaterial and the non-productive. Finally, I explain how a reversal of Slavoj Žižek’s tripartite structure of ideology can help to articulate how a repetition of Beuys’s actions in this context actually displaces their cosmological aspect by virtue of the re-enactment setting alone.

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