Presenting more than five decades of artistic life and performance, 'Marina Abramović' at the Royal Academy of Arts in London is the first major solo exhibition of the artist in the UK.
The exhibition features many of Abramović's material works, which have been created with Factum Arte since 2013. Among these are the four elements in the Cross series (2019), a Corian Portrait (2019), Portal (2022) and Mirrors for Departure (2022). Also on display are new editions (Balkan Baroque and The Communicator) conceived and produced between 2020 and 2023 in collaboration with Abramović and her studio for the Royal Academy exhibition.
[...] Abramović weaves together the baroque amor mortis – the baroque fascination with death, as a melancholic acceptance of the inevitable passing of time, the world and the body – with the baroque aesthetics of cruelty, with its dramatic and theatrical endeavours.
- Svetlana Racanović, 2023
In Balkan Baroque (first performed in 1997), the artist sits on a pile of cow bones, scrubbing away the remains of flesh and blood while singing folksongs. In the background, a video narrates a harrowing tale of hunger and desperate measures. The performance has often been interpreted within the context of the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, but also as a way of physically and spiritually coping with the concept of death.
For the exhibition at the Royal Academy, Factum Arte was commissioned by the artist to create the mound of bones that will form the main stage of the performance. Real cow bones were moulded and cast in off-white and ivory polyurethane, before being hand-finished using different types of wax and pigment. As the goal was to recreate the original shape and structure of the mound as it appeared in the 1997 performance, a hidden stainless steel and fibreglass structure was also conceived in order to support the artist's weight and evenly distribute the bones. Approximately 400 bones were hand-made and painted before being affixed to the structure, carefully studying the composition.
The finished facsimile bone © Oak Taylor-Smith | Factum Arte
The Communicator series was first conceived in 2012, using wax casts of Abramović's face and hands. Several crystals of different shapes and colours emerge, piercing from beneath the surface of the skin. The pieces recall the traditions of death masks and the innate power that is said to emanate from different crystals and metals - a belief that has its origin in Tibetan and Chinese medicinal systems.
In 2023 a new edition of the series of heads was produced at Factum Arte. These heads come from digital data of Marina Abramović's head, acquired with Factum's Veronica Chorographic Scanner. This 3D model data was recreated in poured wax, and the previous series was used to recapture the location of the crystals for these new heads.
One of the finished Communicator heads in Factum's workshop © Oak Taylor-Smith | Factum Arte
The Communicator (9), White wax with pink tourmaline and rhodonite stones © Oak Taylor-Smith | Factum Arte
The Communicator (3), Black wax with white balck tourmaline stones © Oak Taylor-Smith | Factum Arte