London’s Royal Academy of Arts will re-stage Marina Abramović’s Imponderabilia (1977), a performance work in which visitors are invited to pass between two nude performers positioned in a narrow doorway. The work will be performed as part of Abramović’s 2020 exhibition at the gallery, which will be the largest ever retrospective of her work staged in the UK.
Imponderabilia was first performed in 1977 by Abramović and her then-partner and performance artist Ulay in a gallery in Bologna, Italy. During the performance, the pair stood in one of the gallery’s doorways and visitors were forced to pass sideways through the small gap between the artists’ bodies, or alternatively choose to use another door into the space. Visitors were forced to choose whether to face the man or woman when passing through; most visitors chose to face Abramović.
Abramović, who will celebrate her 74th birthday during the show’s run, will not participate in the restaging of the work. However, she will train a team of younger performance art students who will be recreating the artwork to deal with close interactions with members of the public.
The exhibition’s curator Andrea Tarsia described the original 1977 performance: ‘When it was first performed some people just stood back … they couldn’t quite handle it and weren’t entirely sure of what they were seeing.’
Asked whether Abramović will be present for the duration of her exhibition, RA’s artistic director Tim Marlow said: ‘Her concern at the moment is as much looking forward to the legacy of how performance art can exist when the performer is no longer around. Her main concern is how her own work will be reperformed, as theatre is, as music is, in the future.’
‘Never say never with Marina,’ he continued, ‘but one thing she won’t be doing, because we won’t let her … she won’t be in the galleries for 80 days. Will she be in the galleries doing something? Almost certainly.’
The 2020 retrospective will include more than 50 other works by Abramović, however Marlow ruled out restaging some of the Serbian performance artist’s more controversial works, such as The Other: Rest Energy (1980) in which Ulay pointed a bow and arrow at Abramović’s heart, which, if fired, could have caused her death.