Marina Abramović, Charles Atlas. SSS. 1989
  • Not on view

Abramovic and Atlas collaborated to create this short video of a dramatic autobiographical performance, in which Abramovic delivers a monologue that commences with the story of her birth in 1946 and traces her personal narrative through a series of brief memories marked by year. In a detached voice, she recites statements about her childhood in the former Yugoslavia, her family, her performance work, and her collaboration with the artist Ulay, which had ended the year before.

The video begins with Abramovic dressed in a dark suit descending concrete stairs. It is intercut with symbolic and mythological images of her vigorously scrubbing her feet with a brush and close-ups of her wearing a Medusa-like crown of slithering snakes. The soundtrack is composed of Abramovic's voice, the sound of a brush aggressively scrubbing, and a woman singing an aria.

SSS was the first of several collaborations between Abramovic and Atlas, and it was an antecedent for their performance piece The Biography (1992). In both charged performances, Abramovic and Atlas use autobiography as a diachronic structuring principle in an investigation of identity as defined by personal history. At the end of SSS, Abramovic says, "time past, time present," suggesting a dissolution of the temporal boundaries between an individual biography, the artist's performance, and the viewer's engagement.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 91.
Video (color, sound)
6 min.
Object number
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.
Media and Performance

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