Marina Abramovic's artwork reveals an "inner Brazil" that shows us the true calling of our nation

by João Paulo Cavalcanti originally published on the author's blog translated by Pronoia Tradutória

Marina Abramovic has always challenged the limits of the body and art. Known for having introduced performance art to popular museums and galleries, she has guaranteed her place among the greatest artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Marina achieved the feat of making the body a work of art and turning mere presence into art. And she took this idea to its ultimate consequences. Her last project, “The Artist is Present”, is a powerful statement, simultaneously reflecting a conceptual and popular dimension that few moments in the history of art have been able to combine. Marina is a master—and like all good masters, when she arrives at her limit, she pushes herself further.

Cartaz do filme The Artist is Present, 2012
Poster for The Artist is Present, 2012

After offering her pure presence to the audience as a work of art in 2010, Marina went on to transcend the body and started to touch upon that which is disembodied, that which is in between, that which belongs not to the physical dimension, but to the spiritual dimension. During this new phase, Marina rediscovered Brazil. Having had a long affinity with the country, Brazil for her is an infinite repository of ideas, meanings and feelings.

Brazil: The Power of New Spirituality

Marina’s transformation was beautifully captured by the documentary The Space in Between). In the film, she immerses herself in different lines of authentically Brazilian spiritualism — phenomena that were born in the fertile soil of our rural culture. It shows us a portrait and a journey through a deeper Brazil, an absolute necessity for the world today and for Brazil itself.

In the critical times that we are living, the film portrays an “inner Brazil” that needs to “come out” and reveal its true power and, in my view, our nation’s true calling: to be a global center for new spirituality and religiousness.

Other thinkers and cultural commentators have also started paying attention to this notion of Brazil — that of a “spirituality superpower” — as shown in the text “Spiritual Power” by Ronaldo Lemos, published in his column in Folha.

Foreign Maria

Marina arrived at a crossroads between her life, art, and human culture. She fixed her eyes on Brazil and at this point, Marina became Maria (Mary). A living part of the art world, as an intuitive pilgrim she became a part of our own culture and showed the Brazilian cultural elite a clear connection between art and the authentic spirituality of our country.

That is why she became Maria. A foreign Maria who, once again, needed to come from the outside to accurately show us our riches. But Maria does not just point her finger at the heart of our nation, she also points her finger at a forgotten fragment of art. Marina, with the help of the “Brazilian spirit”, came to realize that art, as with any other dimension that has the power to “create objects” (such as science or the market) does not occur outside, but within. That the pain of an object is only the awakening of consciousness. Maria transcends pain by transcending the separation.

Marina has already contributed to the history of art through her own artistic history, helping us to see that a work of art is more than just the object; that it also includes the process and the artist themselves. Now, as Maria, she enters the real dimensions of our post-modern generation. Together with several other artists and cultural advocates, she reveals an understanding that a work of art is more than the finished object, more than a process, and more than the creator. The art is also the audience.

The simultaneous integration and understanding of all of these dimensions, as creators of complete works, can also be called spirituality.

In other words, the spiritual and the post-modern communicate diversity in unity and unity in diversity. This is spirituality. This is post-modern art.

Maria Abramovic

The audience and the cave of consciousness

Marina reinforces a concept that is not only extremely important for modern art, but for humanity itself. She catches a glimpse of this path in her film, and in our country she finds the seminal and authentic echo of this journey. As part of the art world, she highlights Brazil and spirituality as solutions for the crossroads she is facing. Baudelaire called artists the antennae of the race, and we must tune in to these signals. We ourselves become antennae. We are the art.

Through the “wandering” paths of her spiritual journey in a diverse Brazil, we see that Marina, as a shaman and a spiritualist, is only at the beginning of her search. But within the dimension of Art, there is a Master — and this master is Maria, who identifies the audience, spirituality and Brazil as answers to her own personal crossroads, and gives us an important signal for the future of art and for our own futures: that the answers to the evolution of our relationship with the world lie in the Consciousness— this profound cave, unfathomable but magical and powerful.

The point where Cartesian physics dreams through quantum physics, where modern art begins to flourish in the post-modern world.

In the last scene of the film, Marina enters a deep and magnificent cave (perhaps the cave of consciousness itself) and her film and her transformation ends there with the profound words spoken by all children and by all true artists:

“Now, I’m going to explore!””

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