In 1988, after completing one of her more grueling durational performance in which she walked from one end to the center of the Great Wall of China, Marina Abramovic began to create what she refers to as “transitory objects:”
While walking the Great Wall of China, I experienced various energy states. I came to understand that these shifting states were caused by the different minerals present in the ground upon which I walked. Once I returned, I began putting these crystals and minerals into interactive, furniture-like objects. Through these objects, the public could perform instead, and feel something of what I had felt during my experiences. This was my first time inviting the public to directly participate in my practice.
The observer must become participant, because that is the only way he can have the double experience of being the observer and being observed.
White Dragon, Red Dragon, Green Dragon
When I started dealing with the transitional objects, one of the really drastic things was these 'Dragon' pieces. I have the objects on the wall, so the public has to make an historical step and stand on the wall, sit on the wall, and lie on the wall. They were off the ground and this being off the ground is very important, so that the public, with the object, completes the work.
Each mineral is connected with some part of the human body. Quartz is for the eyes, iron for our blood, copper for the nervous system, amethyst for the stomach. I wanted to communicate this experience to the public so I made quartz cushions which fixed to the wall at chest-level and at head height so that people could lean against them.
Chair for Departure with Crystal Points
All the transitory objects have one thing in common: they do not exist on their own; the public must interact with them. Some objects are there to empty the viewer, some to give energy, and some to make a mental departure possible.
Bed for Aphrodite and Her Lovers
Shoes for Departure
Shoes for Departure are made from pure amethyst and weigh 70 kilos, so you can’t walk. People in the public should take their shoes off, wear the amethyst shoes, close their eyes, not move and depart. The proposition is the mental – not the physical – departure.
Enter the shoes with bare feet. Eyes closed. Motionless. Depart.
It was very difficult for me to find big enough pieces of amethyst to make the shoes. Those were only found around Marabá. And in the South I would go for geodes, and I went to the mines to look for them. In Minas Gerais there mostly was tourmaline and smoke quartz and clear quartz, so every different district had a different mine, specialized in one kind of mineral. I went there with this idea of not having to have an idea and that the material would have to tell me.
I would like for my work to function as the constant mirror for the users of my objects so that they do not see me in the work, but rather themselves. That’s the fundamental thing.
Mirror For Departure
Crystal Broom for Non-Human Use
Chair for Man and His Spirit
Abramović created Chair for Man and His Spirit especially for MoMA P.S.1 on the occasion of their 1997 reopening. According to the artist, she felt that when you have a new house it is important to have furniture for the spirits. The spirit chair is positioned three stories above the human chair at ground level; visitors are invited to sit in the human chair.
The Communicator (series)
I used a wax cast of my own head as a metaphor for this new body of work. Each head is different and unique. The basic idea is to communicate the variety of possibilities by using a range of minerals with different properties. Art apart from other qualities, in my opinion has to have a healing function and has to create in the viewer a state of well-being. The world we live in today is imbalanced and we experience disconnection from nature. Human beings are losing their inner center, and this causes serious physical and mental instability.
The function of The Communicator is to trigger in the subconscious, forgotten memories and to reconnect with nature again.
Chair for Human Use with Chair for Spirit Use
I’d like to make something visible for something invisible. So by making a chair for the spirit, which is invisible, you create awareness about that spirit in a way, because you are making a chair for it. And to me, that immaterial world is so important and so present in my everyday life. I was always interested in how I can actually create a bridge between me and the public; wondering how I could invite them into their own immaterial world.
With Chair for Human Use (II), Marina Abramović invites the public to interact not only with the artwork but also with each other. Belonging to the Transitory Objects for Human Use series, the two chairs that compose the piece provide visitors with an unusual experience, daring them to enter into a mutual gaze, a silent interaction for as long as they desire. Marina Abramović used a limited set of materials for this series, including copper, iron, wood and minerals, as she believes these elements contain certain energies.
Through research of Tibetan and Chinese medicine, I formed a correspondence between minerals and parts of the body. Quartz represented the eyes, amethyst puntas the wisdom teeth, amethyst geodes the womb, iron the blood, and copper the nerves. I called my new pieces Transitory Objects intending a double meaning: the energy given off by them was supposed to be a means of transit to a meditative rejuvenating consciousness, and I considered the objects themselves to be temporary, to be discarded once the desired consciousness had been achieved.
In my work energy played the main role. It deals always with energy: it’s about transmission of energy, it’s about receiving energy, it’s about giving energy, it’s about transforming energy. Transitory Objects in my work are just tools, they are kind of props to trigger this experience in the public. I intend the public to have a real experience with objects, but once the experience is achieved, once a particular state of mind is achieved the object is not important anymore. The development would be immaterial art and it’s not going to be with objects. To me art would be transmission of energy between people, without any kind of barrier.
- Marina Abramović