Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present

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Marina Abramović. Role Exchange. 1975

(Yugoslav, born 1946) Super 8mm film transferred to two-channel video (black and white, silent). 19 min.
Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery

MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: I had a very strict upbringing when I was a child in the former Yugoslavia.

GLENN LOWRY: Abramović began performing in public at the age of 21. From then until the age of 29, when she finally left home, she was subject to her mother’s stringent rules.

MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: I had to do all my performances, before ten in the evening, because ten in the evening I have to be home. And there I was really learned to be very disciplinated.

So, coming to Amsterdam, first time in my life, and seeing prostitutes standing in the window, it was something that is the lowest you can get you know to become prostitute. And this fear was enormous. So that was exactly what I wanted to confront. Every time I get idea, if I'm afraid of that idea, and I'm panicking about that idea, this is exactly the idea I'm going to do to liberate myself and also to understand where fear comes from.

I will look for the prostitute with ten years, professional experience and I was ten years professional artist. She will come to the gallery and be me and I will go to her window and be her, and we exchanged the role.

She give me only the instruction that I should never go below her price because I will ruin her business. So I had the two customers; one asked about her, and the second one didn't want to pay the price.

She said to me that I would starve if I will be prostitute because I don't have any talent for that role.