The underlying question in all of this is, of course: why? Why put yourself though such suffering in the name of art? Abramovic has no easy answers to that question. “I am obsessive always, even as a child,” she says, suddenly serious, and, for the first time, pausing for thought. “On one side is this strict orthodox religion, on the other is communism, and I am this little girl pulled between the two. It makes me who I am. It turns me into the kind of person that Freud would have a field day with, for sure.” She hoots with laughter again and reaches for the English tea.
“The brother of my grandfather was the patriarch of the Orthodox Church and revered as a saint. So everything in my childhood is about total sacrifice, whether to religion or to communism. This is what is engraved on me. This is why I have this insane willpower. My body is now beginning to be falling apart, but I will do it to the end. I don’t care. With me it is about whatever it takes.”
compare: the Hunger Artist, Ashley Z’s ‘private performance’, pornography
Just unearthed an old email I wrote about the relationship between sex and sexuality. Figure I may as well put it up here, since I’m not likely to do anything more with it otherwise.
The basic idea is that many elements of sexuality aren’t usually considered in terms of space — but they could be. A cluster of intimate practices are based around the restriction of space (and the associated physical sensations of pressure, darkness, the touch of whatever boundary is limiting the space). I’m thinking of hugs, bondage, the wearing of corsets and latex, perhaps with vacuum-beds as an extreme case. These tend to also be ‘about’ the complete control and presence in that restrained space and sensations of security (think of people who feel safe when a partner is sitting or lying on them). Often they’re described in the language of restricted freedom; thinking about them instead in terms of space maybe leads you to more psychoanalytic interpretations of the practices; i.e. connecting them to being in the womb. [I have no background in the area, but it certainly seems a possibility]
But you’d need, somehow, to connect that to the sensations of DISembodiment and DISplacement during sex — orgasm, in particular, seems often described in terms of being away from the surrounding environment, in a space which has shrunk to just the two(?) partners. If you cease to be separate bodies, can you still be separate bodies in space? To put it another way, ‘staring at the ceiling’ is a common idiomatic description of being bored during sex. If you’re aware of where you are, the sex isn’t good enough.
[based on reactions to a talk at Salon Populaire 6 months ago]