Two Hearts is presenting the reflections of Marina Abramović on the power of female energy through a series of selected works. As the mother to a baby girl in a patriarchal world, I am intrigued by her portraying of physical and spiritual femininity in different nuances.
The solo exhibition Two Hearts at Galerie Krinzinger by the radical and controversial Serbian performance-artist Marina Abramović brings together a group of work that deal with the feminine identity, strength and duality. The exhibition is presented between 27th of April and 9th of June with large-format photographic works and light boxes in connection with the GLOBART Award 2018, which is honoring Marina Abramović for her artistic work.
Gender and Genitalia
With the photography Vladkka from 2007, where Marina Abramović is pointing at the vagina of a baby girl, she is stating the fact that we are all born with a physical gender. When my daughter, Una, was born, the first thing they put on her in the hospital was the pink ribbon, with her birth date and name, which became her identification and identity.
Daily, I have to deal with worrisome comments and behavior from strangers, acquaintances, friends and even family. When Una is drooling, throwing up, farting, peeing or pooping, they are saying »That’s not so lady-like.« Or when I receive gifts to her and everything is in pink. Not to mention nick names like »princess« or »sweetie« or talking to her with a very soft and fragile voice, or comments like »That’s not such an intelligent face« when she lashes with her tongue. For God’s sake, she is a baby and babies are supposed to drool and fart and poop as much as they want — regardless of genitals!
From the first moment you are born, you are given a gender signifier - the pink (girl) or the blue (boy) ribbon based on your genitals - and from then on, the patriarchy is raising you to be a woman or a man. The concept of gender arrives from physical differences, but spiritually you can be a man even though you have a vagina, and vice versa.
When Marina Abramović is pointing at the vagina of the baby girl, she is saying that we define femininity and masculinity, female and male, based on our genitals. The vagina may look like a fragile rose, but it is far away from that as we all were pushed out from one! We can say the same about femininity as Abramović is presenting it, where the Norwegian expression »Ulv i fåreklær« (Wolf in sheep’s clothing) fits perfectly — femininity may be associated with something fragile, but in reality, it is stronger than anything.
The mainstream conception of gender, which is systematically incorporated in every corner of the society, is trying to limit, poison and sometimes even kill the woman, which is visualized in the multi-channel video-installation Dragon Heads (1988-1995).
Throughout the video-installation, the snake is dominantly slithering around the body and face of nine different, motionless Abramovićes in close-ups. The snake is symbolizing the toxic world. It is a powerful imagery which is showing the woman as a strong and vulnerable warrior with a spectrum of emotions and complexity in a toxic world. I can see fear, pride, sadness, indifference, hope, anger and strength in the eyes and body language of Marina Abramović.
Vulnerability = Strength
In addition to the video-installation, there is the powerful photography of Abramović as Joan of Arc Virgin Warrior - Two Hearts (Performance with Jan Fabre) from 2006, where she is holding pieces of meat — which is giving me associations of two hearts — with tears in her eyes. Joan of Arc is symbolizing the message of having two or more hearts; the different selves that are existing in one being, where the heart is the seat of the soul.
Marina Abramović is using pain as a continuous element in her work: »People are afraid of pain — afraid of really feeling it and instead we are self-medicating ourselves with alcohol and pills. Pain is something negative we are protecting ourselves against. So, the day something bad happens to us, we get an emotional breakdown, because we are not capable of handling difficult emotions.«
The Joan of Arc of Abramović is fighting with tears in her eyes, which shows a strength beyond the patriarchal world we are living in, where we are taught to wipe away our tears, because only pussies cry — pussy is a nickname for vagina — meaning only vaginas cry — meaning only women cry (even though men cry as well). The patriarchy we are forced to live in, are suppressing our human emotions and stamping tears as something weak and feminine.
It is scientifically proven that women cry easier than men, because we have a higher amount of the crying hormone prolactin in us. We also have the period every month, and when this is over we have the menopause. Physiologically, women are the perfect carriers and deliverers of human life, but instead of being praised for it, we are being punished for it from the other sex through suppression, unequal rights and violence. Joan of Arc was called a lunatic and witch, and brutally murdered.
Your emotions don’t make you ill. The patriarchy will make you feel guilty and shameful of your emotions, and make you question your own sanity just because you feel the pain rather than suppressing it. Women all over the world are stamped as mentally unstable due to this. We have the 21st century term crazy bitch, which is made up by men and exclusively used about women.
Strong emotions and the courage to feel pain are not indicators of a mental disease and people who tell you this are often men who can’t handle their own emotions or people who are indoctrinated by the patriarchy where they are taught to not cry and be vulnerable, because: »Only weak people do that!« In reality, it is the opposite. Abramović is beautifully and admirably presenting vulnerability as a sign of strength rather than a sign of weakness.
Life and Death
In the three light boxes Carry Elvira (Facing Up), Stromboli and Carry Elvira (Facing Down) Abramović is carrying an older woman as the Pietà in front of the volcano Stromboli. I interpret it as she is saving her own life, by physically escaping from the ruptured patriarchal world — volcano — with her predicted future — the dead older woman — in her arms.
With her exhibition Two Hearts at Galerie Krinzinger, Abramović is empowering my view on femininity by presenting it with power and fragility, delicately balanced together. Yes, women have been punished and are still being punished for simply being women, but I will never accept to be stamped as the weak gender just because I have a vagina and dare to be vulnerable. I will proudly and fearlessly keep on fighting against the patriarchy with tears in my eyes, and my hearts as my strongest weapons.