A new film on the life and legacy of Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović is now available to watch at the Sarajevo Film Festival. Directed by Boris Miljković, Homecoming: Marina Abramović and Her Children is an overview of the artist’s work, her childhood in Belgrade, and her later life. The Calvert Journal dug into the surprising facts the film reveals about the “grandmother of performance art”.
The film has two storylines — one follows Abramovic and her life story, while the other focuses on the Marina Abramović Institute, which organises workshops where young performance artists push the limits of their bodies by reenacting her performances. Abramović explains that, for her, giving the artworks to the world is like letting children grow — hence the title of the film.
“I come from a dark place, Tito’s Yugoslavia,” Abramović says at the beginning of the film. “Everything was somehow second-hand in Belgrade. Whatever you did, there was a feeling of oppression and a little depression.” She also talks about the “perpetual shortages” that characterised the communist era.
The artist had an overbearing mother. Even during her last year at university, Abramović had to return home by 10pm, and her mother checked her phone calls and her mail. After one of her shows in which she performed naked in a museum, her mother assaulted her, throwing a glass ashtray at her head, and compared her to a “prostitute”.
For Abramovic, children always felt like a “terrible trap”. “All I really wanted was to be free,” she says in the film. She also mentions having had three abortions.
Conceiving the performance eight years before they realised it, Abramović and Ulay planned to get married on the Great Wall of China, as they walked towards each other, from two different ends of the wall. In reality, over those eight years, they grew apart. Instead of getting married, the couple broke up, taking different flights to Amsterdam, and not seeing each other again for 22 years, until their legendary meeting at the premiere of her performance The Artist Is Present at MoMA in New York.