I came close to walking out of this documentary by Marco Del Fiol, about performance artist Marina Abramović, within the first 15 minutes. If I had, I would’ve missed an interesting meditation on ritual, spirituality and performance.
Abramović is someone I have admired from a distance. Confrontational, idiosyncratic and composed, she’s unafraid to make herself vulnerable in the name of art. In 2012, struggling to recover from a broken relationship and a broken heart, she travels to Brazil to explore spirituality and meet those with the power to heal.
My urge to head for an exit came when a charismatic healer began to perform surgeries in front of his congregation. We see a knife slicing an eye, as he ‘lowers its blood pressure’ without even watching what he’s doing. I assume the acolyte wasn’t blinded as afterwards there was much excited talk of energies and higher powers controlling the healer’s hands.
Abramović fully immerses herself. Sitting for hours in the ‘current room’, watching the surgeries as her ‘eyes transmit energy’ and marvelling at her own composure and the meaningful images that come from her long meditations. Within a few days she moves on and we see people who heal with cooking, plants, prayer, movement, sweating, crystals and hallucinogens. She participates in it all, even returning for a second try of ayahuasca after the first made her violently ill and lose all control of her bodily functions.
Part of me watched with a skeptical eye. Abramović talks about recognising that happiness comes from within but seems to need to look to others for a cure. She longs to move on from the pain of her relationship but seems to hold it tightly to her. Slowly though, I begin to appreciate her willingness to lay herself bare, to open her mind to other people’s reality and spirituality. There is no skepticism in her, just a questing for understanding and a genuine connection with other people’s humanity.
Eventually her message, and personal realisation, is revealed and we see the heart of her performance and the purpose of her art.
Have you seen this film? Did you squirm at the surgeries? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.