Marina Abramović Says Children Hold Back Female Artists

"I have no husband, no family, I’m totally free."

Marina Abramovic in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 8, 2015. Courtesy of NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images.

In a deeply personal and frank interview with the German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel, the artist Marina Abramović addressed her art, the reason why she never had children, and her new interest in pole dancing.

For over 40 years Abramović has attracted attention with her performances which have been characterized by extreme ambition, discipline, and self-control. In 2010, the Serbian-born, New York-based artist debuted a durational performance piece in the atrium of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Artist is Present, which resulted in a documentary by the same name, in 2012. Since then, she’s performed 512 Hours at an empty Serpentine Gallery in London, taken part in a participatory project in Athens, and is reportedly writing an autobiography, due out later this year.

She is known as the “grandmother of performance art,” and it is easy to see why this risk-taking artist has made a name for herself. “The difference between theater and performance is that in the theater the blood is ketchup, and in performance, it’s real,” she explained to Tagesspiegel in reference to her work.

She added that over the years the strain of performing in the international art world has taken its toll. “I am the artwork. I can’t send a painting, so I send myself…In the last year I didn’t spend more that 20 days in New York. At airports I had to think ‘where is my suitcase arriving from?’”

However, she clarified: “I don’t know if I could live differently. Also, I have no husband, no family, I’m totally free.”

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

The artist explained to the newspaper that she never wanted children, even at an early age. “I had three abortions because I was certain that it would be a disaster for my work. One only has limited energy in the body, and I would have had to divide it,” she said. “In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children—a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.”

Abramović also revealed to the newspaper that she’s looking forward to celebrating her 70th birthday this year, which she says will be held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. “We’ll see if I can dance down a pole from all the way up in the museum. I’m still practicing.”

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