This is one of the most iconic performances of Marina Abramovic (we made a little introduction to her in our overview about Performance Art). Marina Abramovic was sitting in front of an audience, naked from the waist up, just brushing her hair with a brush in one hand and a comb in the other, and repeating “Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful” like a mantra. Her hairbrush and comb are made of metal, and many times she is aggressive towards herself, hurting her head and face. You will find the video of the performance down below.

The performance is a critique to the art world in general, and to the role of women in the art field more specifically. She is hurting herself, to express the power of the body, the energy, the suffering. The action of making herself beautiful – brushing her hair – is painful and unwanted, and it’s also unnecessary. The feminine figure in arts has always been just beautiful, but with this performance she is expressing that a woman in arts can be much more, and beauty is no longer necessary.

But with her mantra she is saying something more: she is saying that neither art has to be beautiful. As we said many times, contemporary art is no longer about beauty, or not only. It is about artistic research, meaning, aestethics and experiencing. Marina Abramovic is saying this: art doesn’t have to be beautiful, and neither has the artist. Beauty has been overcome, and the pain that the search of beauty provokes is too deep to be ignored. Is it worth it?


Bibliography and further readings:




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