On the morning of March 14, 2010, Serbian-born artist Marina Abramović sat down on an uncomfortable-looking wooden chair in the middle of New York's Museum of Modern Art. There she stayed for eight hours straight, every day for three months, staring motionless and in silence at gallery visitors who took it in turns to sit in the chair opposite.
It wasn't the first time the artist had presented herself in a museum setting. In November 2002 she spent 12 days (and this time nights) in the Sean Kelly Gallery, living between three purpose-built units raised six feet from the floor. Visitors – some of whom looked on through a telescope conveniently supplied nearby – were invited to watch the artist go about various everyday activities: sitting, washing, thinking, dreaming. On both occasions she laid herself bare to the audience. All in the name of art.
Abramović (b.1946) is a performance artist, perhaps the movement's greatest. Since the early 1970s she's produced work that has tested the limits of the body, questioned the possibilities of the mind and ritualised human activity. She's keenly explored the relationship between performer and audience, too, extending the role of the viewer from spectator to participant. Thanks to Abramović, we no longer just look at art, we've become a part of it.
Although producing work for over 30 years, the artist's popularity has experienced a major surge over the last decade. So big is Abramović these days she's the subject of her own documentary, recently starred in the music video for singer Antony Hegarty's latest single (alongside actor Willem Dafoe, no less), and in January 2011 starred on the cover of Serbian ELLE.
Back in 1994, when the first edition of The Art Book was published, there were no performance artists included. No wonder – at the time, the term didn't figure all that prominently in the art world lexicon. Thanks to Abramović, it most certainly does now.