Marina Abramović is planning out her next big piece and it may shock you, and, more likely, her. The 71-year-old performance artist will allow herself to be charged with 1 million volts of electricity by an English goat farmer. She will go through all of this just to perform the simple task of putting out a candle. If this sounds just as much science experiment as work of art, that’s because it is.
The revelation was made in The Times ahead of Abramović’s solo retrospective at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (she’ll be the first female artist to take over the historic institution’s main galleries, by the way). The Serbian-born artist has been tossing around ideas for several new performances (including a “fountain” that would involve blood spewing out of every orifice in her body that was eventually scrapped) with collaborators, including Adam Lowe’s Factum Arte studio. It was Lowe who was tasked with explaining the project, which he acknowledged could be potentially dangerous.
Lowe became familiar with “a goat farmer from Dorset called Dwight Perry” after he built a milk machine, and Perry, whom Lowe calls one of the “most brilliant engineers I have come across,” will make a full-body electricity system based on the principals of Kirlian photography.
The idea is that the charge will gather at Abramović’s fingertip and, theoretically, she’ll be able to point it at a candle up to a meter away and extinguish its flame.
“Electricity is something that people really don’t understand,” Lowe told the paper. “If you look on the Internet though, you will see people becoming highly charged and as long as they are insulated, you can fly bits of lightning out of your fingers.”
Luckily, everyone involved has plenty of time to figure this all out. The exhibition is scheduled for 2020.
While in recent years Abramović may be best known for her downright serene The Artist Is Present performance which involved the moving, but not particularly dangerous, act of the artist sitting quietly in front of people for hours at a time—as much a feat of endurance as it was—Abramović’s back catalog is filled with dangerous and extreme performances.
In 1974, she put herself in a room for six hours with 72 objects (a loaded gun among them) and allowed an audience to do whatever they wanted to her with the items. Of course, someone did end up pointing the gun at her head before another audience member took it away (her clothes were cut off and she was stabbed with rose thorns during the performance). There was also her Rest Energy performance with her ex-partner Ulay, in which he held a drawn arrow pointed directly at her heart for minutes at a time. She also once passed out while trying to leap over a star that had been set on fire. If performance art hasn’t killed her yet, why not? We suppose…
Though, this isn’t the only project Abramović has coming up. She will also star in, direct, and write an opera called Seven Deaths. A tribute to the life and death of Maria Callas, project is also set to debut in 2020 at the Munich opera house.
Of course, whatever it is that Abramović ends up planning for her Royal Academy show, it seems that what the performance she’s most excited about is simply being a woman, the first to have a show in the space.
“The scent of testosterone that lingers in the hallways will be aired out and what will remain is the energy of art without gender,” she said at the Academy’s 2017 gala. “The smell of estrogen will be flowing through the halls,” she added.