the mask beneath

Last Saturday, thanks to a very kind friend, I got to see The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, a biography of the renowned performance artist. When I emerged from the theatre, after three extraordinary hours, the pavement was crowded, the sky almost dark and the taxi driver cheery. Everything was normal but the world had shifted slightly. The residue of the performance overlaid everything for the next few days. I didn't want to read or watch anything or even try to describe to anyone what the performance had been like for fear of diluting it. I wasn't going to write about it here, keeping in mind Polo's words in Calvino's Invisible Cities: 'Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased... Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it.'

But I still have a head full of images that I don't quite know what to do with...

Sleek black dogs streaming between glowing red bones and white corpses. Marina removing a mask that was such a perfect likeness it could have been her face and holding it, luminous, against her chest. Strings of miniature beds. The ensemble of Marinas, one with a moustache. Marina as her mother. Marina breathing life into a skeleton. Marina so compellingly still. The naked woman falling backwards too slowly down the stairs. Willem Dafoe, half-buried in newspapers, reading out scraps of Marina's life. White flags rippling as a Serbian folk song built into an assault of sound and light. Anthony Hegarty's voice.

So I've disregarded Polo's words (as he does himself, really) and said a little about it here because if I don't attempt to catch a thing with words I'm worried it will slip from my grasp anyway.

ps I can gather together a few of the images but I can't begin to convey what it felt like to actually watch the performance, which is why I would make a crap reviewer. For more detailed accounts try here, here, here or there's an interview here. If you're in the UK, there's a Culture Show MIF special on the iPlayer which has a section on the performance. There are some brilliant backstage photographs here.