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Book review: 'Walk Through Walls: A Memoir' by Marina Abramović

  • December 2016
  • Education & learning
  • Topics in science
  • Book or article
Credit Patricia Wall/The New York Times

Walk Through Walls: A Memoir

by Marina Abramović
Published by Crown Archetype
ISBN-13: 978-1101905043

Book review by Andrea Bandelli, Executive Director, Science Gallery International, Dublin, Ireland

When an artist undergoes the same training of NASA astronauts, you can be sure that the results will be quite interesting. This is what Marina Abramović did to prepare herself for her retrospective “The Artist is Present”, in 2010 at MoMA. This training was not only necessary in order to endure the daunting task of sitting still for 736 hours, but also to re-engineer the eating patterns of her body. A performance that began with such a high-tech training, ended up being the source of a number of scientific explorations on brain activity during mutual gaze.
Marina Abramović describes this and many other moments of her life in her memoir “Walk Through Walls”. I found her book intensely inspiring - not only for the immediate connection between art and science, but also because throughout her work Marina Abramović has explored, like no other artist, issues of public participation. She gave permission to the public to engage with her to the point of risking her own life, stretching the boundaries of what it means to do “public participation”. Her work is a constant reflection on what is “real” - she famously said “in theatre, the blood is ketch-up and the knife is made of plastic; in performance art, the blood is blood and the knife is real”. A parallel argument can be done for many science centres: to what extent is the experience “real” and to what extent is it staged, predictable and carefully planned? Performance art is never rehearsed; it’s a quest to understand the unknown, it’s not something to look at, but to be part of. Just like science.


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