What Marina Abramovic has said about the Balkans, Yugoslavia, and Belgrade
Toward the opening of "The Cleaner" exhibition on September 21 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade
As Marina states in her book, "Walk Through Walls," the Abramovic family lived in a luxurious four-bedroom apartment in downtown Belgrade. They also had a maid. Her parents were partisans and active participants in the National Liberation War. After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and Zagreb, she left Yugoslavia in 1975. Since then, she has not had any exhibitions in her own country... why?
Here's what Marina Abramovic had to say about the Balkans, Yugoslavia and Belgrade in statements made for various media outlets...
For BBC's Serbian service
"Nobody invited me to come before. This absence was not intentional on my part. The reason for such a long absence is very simple, besides the Museum of Contemporary Art was closed for renovation for a decade," Marina told the BBC on the occasion of her upcoming exhibition, "The Cleaner."
As for the exhibition "Balkan Baroque" at the Venice Biennale, during which she used a brush to remove blood and meat from cow bones, and speaking about other topics related to the Balkans and Belgrade, she told the BBC:
"'Balkan Baroque', on the one hand, is a response to the horrors of the war in the Balkans, and on the other, is a metaphor for any war in any time and space. I still think that no one can wash the blood off their hands. What's done is done."
"At the same time, I believe that the only way not to be trapped by feelings of guilt and remorse and not repeat the past is to look ahead."
"It seems to me that since communism there haven't been any fundamentally new ideologies that I would think of as good, but my interest in the subject doesn't go beyond that."
"Young people in Belgrade are those with fresh ideas, they think about a new world and represent our hope for the future."
"There have been very few of those who supported me and my work when I was just starting out in Yugoslavia. And that wasn't the case only with me but also with many young artists back then, so we were supportive of each other."
"Having a mentor and someone who had gone through similar experiences was a luxury we didn't have at the time. The art we dealt with and our ideas were so different from what was considered accepted and established, that the system rejected us far more often than supported us."
For Germany's Spiegel
"I don't feel like a Serb or a Montenegrin. I'm an ex-Yugoslav. I come from a country that is gone."
From her book "Walking Through Walls," published in Serbia by Samizdat
"We lived in a big apartment in the center of Belgrade (...) Four bedrooms, a dining room, a huge salon, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a maid’s room. (...) Later I discovered it had once belonged to a wealthy Jewish family, and had been confiscated during the Nazi occupation and later by partisans."
"I come from a dark place. Postwar Yugoslavia, the mid-1940s to the mid-70s. A Communist dictatorship, Marshal Tito in charge. Perpetual shortages of everything, drabness everywhere. There is something about Communism and socialism—it’s a kind of aesthetic based on pure ugliness. The Belgrade of my childhood didn’t even have the monumentalism of Red Square in Moscow. Everything was somehow secondhand. As though the leaders had looked through the lens of someone else's Communism and built something less good and less functional and more fucked-up."
"I always remember the communal spaces -they would be painted this dirty green color, and there were these naked bulbs that gave off a gray light that kind of shadowed the eyes. The combination of the light and the color of the walls made everyone's skin yellowish-greenish, like they were liver-sick. Whatever you did, there would be a feeling of oppression, and a little bit of depression," Marina Abramovic wrote in her memoir.