Blaine, Murder, Magic & Art

Inside Magic Image of Performance Artist Marina Abramovic Performing Rhythm, 0 (Circa 1974)There is a fine line between art and premeditated murder.

Magician and endurance stunt endurer David Blaine knows the location of that fine line. He will come close to it but not cross. That’s why he continues to command huge fees and great ratings for his appearances.

Marina Abramovic?, artist and author of Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, has made a reputation in the often confusing but almost always entertaining world of Performance Art. New York Magazine’s Vulture blog notes the documentary about her 730 hour-long staring contest at the New York Museum of Modern Art won the Audience Prize for a feature film at a festival in Paris honoring US indie films.

The film is now showing in New York and stirring some controversy. New York Magazine’s Vulture blog writer Andre Tartar wondered “just how much lustier the reception [for the film] might’ve been if Abramovic? really had let magician David Blaine disembowel her with a fire axe.”

Mr. Blaine chews on a glass whilst discussing a performance piece with the artist. We assume he was just “spit-ballin'” some ideas with his creative equal. He proposed taking a hatchet to Ms. Abramovic? and leaving her in pieces-n-parts all over the exhibit space. “You know there are always those axes in the glass in case of emergency,” Blaine says on the video. “…She’s laying there, and the whole exhibition is over.

We are not sure why Mr. Blaine and Ms. Abramovic? abandoned this sensational plan. Then again, we are not sure why Mr. Blaine goes through with many of his other stunts. There is a shrewd calculus in the mystifier’s mind. That’s what makes him special.

As for Ms. Abramovic?, however, she is clearly not adverse to taking her pursuit of art to places rarely considered in suburban wine-and-cheese galleries.

In the early 1970’s, Ms. Abramovic? performed Rhythm, 0. She became completely submissive to her audience and allowed them to use one of 72 different items to interact with her. The items were a mixture of harmful, pleasurable and benign. She had a gun held to her head, she was pierced by rose thorns, and suffered other indignities. The lesson, “if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.”

Excellent point and, in our humble opinion, an amazing work of art.

Check out the incredible MOMA page documenting The Artist is Present exhibition here.

The documentary will appear exclusively on HBO on July 2nd.

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