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Photo: Marius Becker/dpa
dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock PhotoPhoto: Marius Becker/dpa

Londoners will squeeze past naked performers at a Marina Abramović show next year

By Rosemary Waugh

Everyone’s favourite performance artist, Marina Abramovć, will return to London in September 2020 with a major new exhibition at the Royal Academy spanning her iconic career. More than 50 works are going to be on display, including some brand new ones, but the thing everyone’s talking about is this: ‘Imponderabilia’.

The idea is simple: two naked performers, one male and one female, stand either side of a doorway. To pass through, visitors must squeeze sideways through the narrow space facing either the man or the woman. Alternatively, they can bypass what is probably many English people’s worst nightmare by going around the artwork via another (non-naked) doorway.

It was first performed in Bologna, Italy in 1977 by Abramović and her former partner, Ulay, at the entrance to an art gallery. The artwork is understood to provoke reflections on desire, sexuality and [for me] clamminess. The Italian police were obviously feeling less warm towards that kind of experimental performance art because they closed the event down after 90 minutes (it was meant to last three hours). 

When it comes to London next autumn, the now 72-year-old Abramović will not perform it herself. Instead, a selection of younger performers trained by the artist will take over proceedings. And, instead of it being at the entrance to the gallery – which would certainly make Piccadilly more interesting – they’ll be based between rooms inside the building.

So London, let’s get up close and naked.

Marina Abramović:’50 Years of Pioneering Performance Art’ is on at the Royal Academy from Sep 26- Dec 8 2020. Find out more here.


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