Monday, 5 December 2011

Fourscore Selected Works: 15 minutes

Rachel Lois Clapham at The Other Room from The Other Room on Vimeo.

In August, I was invited to read at The Other Room. In a take on ‘selected poems’, I read Fourscore Selected Works; twenty  gestures taken from different performances (mine, and those from dialogue with David Berridge and Alex Eisenberg.) The gestures were squared, shuffled then shown and read to The Other Room audience.  The economy of the marks, and the the reading as a whole, is indebted to a process of performance and extraction, focussing on physical gestures as text.

The score used in the performance- entitled HOLD (IT)-  is forthcoming in print in 2012 with design by Stephen P Perry.

Diagrammatic works related to Fourscore Selected Works reading at The Other Room can be found here, here and here. 

Rachel Lois Clapham - The Other Room Interview Series from The Other Room on Vimeo.

Rachel Lois Clapham produces writing on and as performance as part of Open Dialogues and curates radical writing with the Arts Council partnership In a word…. Her own practice points..., punctuates movement and presses on physical gestures as text. 2010 work includes Re- (PSL Gallery Leeds, Norwich Arts Centre and John Latham Archive London), WORK TRY HARD (Kaleid Editions) and (W)reading Performance Writing : A Guide (Live Art Development Agency).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Is this a rhetorical device?

[by Mary Paterson.

1000 words and 102 questions. In response to Being Seen, Being Heard at Chelsea Theatre, 27th November 2011. ]

Is this your body?

Is this a space?

Are we in agreement? Have you heard this before? Did you say something?

Are you reading in silence?

If I repeated the question, would your answer be the same or different?

Can I start with this - who is your community? When you read ‘your community’ did you think I meant the community to which you belong, or the community with whom you are currently engaged?

Is it a project of performance to create communities? To designate, service and evaluate them?

Can I ask again – who is your community? Or, to put it another way – how does it feel to be identified?

How does publicly funded (performance) art ensure it is on the side of the community, and not on the side of education or objectification; of corporations or governments? (Is the side of the community, in your opinion, the better side?)

What is an assembly, and who assembles (it)? How does publicly funded (performance) art ensure it is sustainable? Or, to put it another way – how do you know you are doing the right thing?

Are you allowed to say ‘the right thing’ any more?

Are you allowed to talk about racism if you are white? Are you allowed to talk about marginalisation if you are middle class? Are you allowed to talk about racism and marginalisation if you are middle class, inside a theatre, on a council estate, in Chelsea, on a Sunday? Did you think I had forgotten that knowledge is relative?

Is your community defined by your geography, technology or education? Do you use the same criteria to identify other people?

Do you look like him – the man over there with the Apple Mac and the microphone? Does he look like you? Does he point at you and say, ‘me’? Or does he say ‘we’? Or does he say –not in words, perhaps, but by body language, action or implication - ‘I did not hear you, I am going to answer a different question’?

Is this knowledge, culture, education or the production of another kind of value?

Is this public, private, pedagogic or instrumental? Is this mine, or yours? Is this your idea, and if it is, can I use it? Can I use it without permission? What would you do if I took it without permission, took credit for it, used it for propaganda, invented a word and made an exhibition of myself? Would you join me in sitting round a table and asking questions? Why not?

Is this sustainable? Do you and I share the same sense of humour? If I told you a joke, do you think you would laugh? Have you heard the one about the schoolmaster?

Who owns this event? Who is going to intrepret it? What are you willing to believe in? If I told you that all the colours you are seeing right now have been adjusted for warmth, would you feel a) warm b) chilled or c) like complaining? Who would listen to your complaint? Who do you hope would listen?

Is anyone listening? Have you ever suspected anyone of deliberately eavesdropping on your conversations, and then using the information they hear against you? Is anyone, or has anyone ever, hacked into your mobile phone? Have you ever asked anyone to act as your witness? Have you ever been asked to be a witness, and found the task impossible?

What is the difference between witnessing real life and witnessing an act of performance? What is the difference between being a consumer and being an audience member? What is the difference between being in a room and being in an online network?

Can you formulate an argument without a human in it?

What is your skill? What is your authorial expertise? What is your preferred political position, and do you ever think about changing it, just to see how soft and green it is on the other side? Do you still believe in anything? Do you still believe in something? Do you intend to convey meaning?

Where do you appear?

What is contemporary oral culture? What is the difference between data and statisitcs? How do you represent something that has already happened? Why? Is it interesting or tiresome to know that there is no way to regain the live moment? Is it elitist or democratic to mourn its loss?

Is this clear? Is this clearer?

What do you think it means, that your parents’ body language dances across your hands when you speak? What do you think it means about heritage, culture and class? Who are you networking with? What is close, and what is far? Why aren’t you speaking? Who’s fault is that?

What is the right pace, tone or language? In which situation would you be content to have no power, opinions or speech? Who would you nominate to speak for you? Let me rephrase that – is this democracy?

Is this space?

Is this culture? Is this the production of knowledge? Is this education? Is it friendship, social life, or politics? Is it mine or yours?

Is this space next to, inside, outside, under, over or beside another space? Is the other space your preferred space, or are you happy with this one? Be truthful – would you rather be inside another space, looking out at those of us over here? Would you rather be in a tent, with a placard, making your mark? On a scale of 1 to 10, how dangerous is your body? Or, to put it another way, how much danger are you prepared for?

When was the last time you were surprised? Are you on the side of police, politics, charity or justice? What do you need to read before you will read something new? Do you prefer a place of opposition or a place of security? How long is your memory? Where are you going? If you could start again with language, what would be your first word?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Inside Performance Vol 24 no. 3 2011

By Rachel Lois

INSIDE PERFORMANCE is a serialised writing project developed by Rachel Lois Clapham for Dance Theatre Journal.  Taking the form of a regular newspaper or magazine ‘column’ INSIDE PERFORMANCE is a periodic journey into the practice of writing from or as performance. For this special issue ‘Trashing’, Rachel Lois writes TRASH SUBMISSION which acts variously as declamation, instruction or title.

Writing for the Trashing issue of Dance Theatre Journal went through a curious process of condensation or extraction. Of first: googling ‘trashing’ and making a poem based on all the ‘hits’ (junk?) that ensues. Secondly, writing a piece ‘on trash’ that reflected on writing and its place within performance – as trash, as trashing - both a celebration of and critique. Thirdly, getting rather bored with the directness, or rather obedience, of this. And fourthly, turning to the particular editorial guidelines for the issue, along with the invitation ‘to submit’ a manuscript, and being caught up in submitting trash, and submitting to trash. And lastly, cleaving to just these two remaining words. TRASH SUBMISSION.

TRASH SUBMISSION then, is a declamation – perhaps from a trash manifesto, or a trash methodology. It invites thoughts on trashing submission  (of or to?). It is also an invitation in a much more  immediate sense: to trash (this particular page, the whole journal). The ultimate ‘?’ being what this act of readerly trashing might be.  As a title, TRASH SUBMISSION – whether referencing the theme of the journal, or being self-consciously depreciative of itself - hints at the work which is its namesake and begs the question where this ‘submission’ is. Perhaps ‘Trash Submission’ exists elsewhere, complete but omitted from this particular issue (for being unsuitable, for being trash?). Perhaps there was a printing error and only the title remains. Perhaps the work is not yet made or never will be. The notion of trash moves around these two words. Ultimately, it may just be a trashy submission.


Trashing Dance Theatre Journal is a dedicated and rigorous exploration of Trash in art, performance, work, and club culture. It features interviews with performance star and living-legend Penny Arcade, club performer Mouse, sex worker and activist Thierry Schaffauser, plus articles exploring the work of John Sex, Danish collective dunst, Club Wotever, wasted works, contaminated performances and the 'lowest form of performance' - living street sculptures. Forms of trashy articulation including soap box articles, TV Chat Shows and Tabloid Newspapers interrupt and compliment more formal essays and interviews in this special issue! More details here Trashing Dance Theatre Journal is available to purchase online at Unbound. Part of Performance Matters. 

Previous columns here, here and here

A text by Mary on the Trashing Performance programme as part of Performance Matters here

All images C. Dance Theatre Journal and the artists 2011. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Action Art Now NOTES

By Rachel Lois

Action Art Now NOTES are made from last weekend’s evening of performance curated by OUI Performance with Gillian Dyson, Paul Hurley, Poppy Jackson, and Christopher Mollon. These NOTES speculate on the nature of action or task - which was variously object-based, practised, done/un-done and automated in the work.

‘NOTES- the before, after and during; final, continual and provisional; eventual and event-full.' Very Small Kitchen on Rachel Lois Clapham’s NOTES.

 Poppy Jackson 1 Action Art Now

Poppy Jackson Action Art Now

Gillian Dyson Action Art Now

Notes Action Art Now

Paul Hurley Action Art now

Christopher Mollon Action Art Now

NOTES is an ongoing body of work by Rachel Lois Clapham focusing on diacritical marks, provisional or live writing from and as performance. They are made live in the same time and place of performance and often given to the performer directly after the performance as a gift.

Made as part of NOTA; an Open Dialogues research project that will produce a sometime set of pedagogic performance writing tools.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Wendy Houstoun: 50 ACTS – a Partial Response, in time.

By Mary Paterson

"The word, to me, is an active thing.”

“Language has a rhythm."

- Wendy Houstoun, Post-Show Discussion, after Fifty Acts at The Place, London, 15/11/11

Keeping time. Telling time. Making time. Falling out of time.

At some point, at some time, she will disappear.

She tells us so, in big, white, capital letters scrolling up the screen, like the epic intro to an adventure film.

She tells us so, sitting in the corner of the stage, sad and steroetyped like an old person, next to black and white dancing showgirls.

Old times, other people’s times, times made poignant with age.

At some point, at some time, she will disappear.

But all that comes later.

In the beginning, time stops.

Time is dead. It is the end of time.

But all that comes first.

For now there is spinning, there is movement, there are customer surveys.

How did you find your experience of dying? There are jokes.

There is George Osborne, cutting things.

There is a chorus of yesses. There is a chase. There is music. There is poetry.

There is rhythm. There is rhyme, metre, and dance.

There is Act One, followed by Act Two, all the way up to Fifty.

In the middle there is an interval. She re-does things.

She lets the movements of the first Twenty-Nine acts ripple over her body as if they haven’t found their meaning yet.

She pulls the tape out of a cassette to the accompaniment of two women, talking of anticipation.

She reads the cassette tape with her fingers to divine her future.

I see a pension. Oh no, I don’t.

There are jokes.

She smashes some old vinyl records in time to the beat.

Keeping time.

Losing time.

She re-plays the sound of a woman’s voice.

Ok. Cheers, then. Lots of Love.

The woman’s voice fades out of time.

Lots of Love.

The woman’s voice fades out of time and out of ear shot.

Keeping time. Telling time. Making time. Falling out of time.

At some point, at some time, she will disappear.

Everyone is telling her so.

Everything is telling her so.

Drumroll please.

The invisible person behind the cloak can be heard sobbing.

Would you describe the latter part of your life as: satisfactory; unsatisfactory; neither satisfactory or unsatisfactory?

At the beginning, time stops.

Time is dead. It is the end of time.

At the end there is no ending. She is going to disappear.

At some point, at some time.

At the end, she scratches for an ending.

Perhaps she is clutching on to time.

Inbetween, there is falling, there is equipment, there are risk assessments.

There is the language of the bureaucrat, of passive success and implicit blame.

Do you need training?

There is a chase. There is music. There is poetry.

There is rhythm. There is rhyme, metre, and dance.

Perhaps she will go with a bang.

Perhaps she will go with a rhyme.

Perhaps she will go out with the lights.

Perhaps she will go with a bow.

Perhaps she will fade away.

She bows.

When she bows, we clap.

(We clap loud enough to bring her back.)

Monday, 31 October 2011

Trashing Performance (written by Mary Paterson)

image (c) Owen Parry

You have to call it something.

A small Cuban woman strides across stage in PVC. Metamorphosing from seventeenth century nun to British Bulldog, she bends her knees, juts out her chin and curls her melodic voice into a grumpy snarl. She turns and gives the audience a flash of her back, bare except for a bra worn the wrong way round, and quips: ‘Worth the entrance fee alone.’ [1]

You have to call it something, this self consciously playful two-fingers-up at the establishment, at academia, at gender, at expectations.

A skeletally thin man teeters in high heels and fish net stockings. He lifts his arms at the elbows, like a puppet, and lip synchs to a strong, American, female voice. The strong voice and the frail body mime a story of gender abuse. [2]

You have to call it something, this persistent, resistant caricature of identities and labels played out, for the most part, on women’s bodies, real and imagined.

A figure in a Burkha scuttles into the spotlight and swivels her eyes from side to side. The music starts up - swing music from the 1940s, the golden age of show business. The Burkha moves slightly, as if the woman is dancing. [3]

You have to call it something, because here it is, the performance programme of the second year of ‘Performance Matters’, a three year research collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of London, University of Roehampton, and the Live Art Development Agency.

So you call it trash performance.

Or perhaps, like Scottee, you command the theatre in a glittering jumpsuit and call it ‘light art’ – a mixture of live art and light entertainment. Art that is both enjoyable, he explains, and that ‘has a politic.’

‘We have a hashtag for tonight,’ says the man in the glittering jumpsuit, ‘It’s #bunchofcunts.’ He checks Twitter to find out what people have been saying about the show. It turns out the hashtag has a double life – it’s also used to describe the Conservative Party. [4]

Because if there’s one thing we’re all agreed on, we’re all agreed that this is not trash.

It’s not trash when Marcia Farquhar’s guests stand in a skip at the back of Toynbee Hall, delivering lectures on a subject they would like to trash, or keep from the trash.

Marcia cries into the fading light: ‘Is that nice man from last night back again?’ Luckily, he is. Enthused from a stay at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest camp, he climbs into Marcia’s skip and tells us about his first performative intervention. [5]

It’s not trash when Nao Bustamante recalls the time she went on the Joan Rivers chat show disguised as ‘An Exhibitionist’, and unleashed the term ‘multi-gendered ambicentric individual’ into the world.

Two thirds of the way through a film of talking heads, Nao Bustamante’s lips stop moving in time with her words. A voice says ‘You literally cannot believe what you see,’ and a body speaks something else – silent, unknowable. [6]

image (c) Ben Walters

It’s not trash when Lois Weaver narrates her own autobiography, part drag queen, part university lecturer, in a selective history of political, sexual and artistic awakenings.

A woman peers over the top of her pink rimmed glasses and underneath her dramatic, blonde wig. She picks up a cupcake from a hostess trolley and flings it to the back of the auditorium. [7]

Of course, nobody ever said it was. The ‘Trash’ of ‘Trashing Performance’ is not a pejorative but a verb. The work in this programme trashes an other.

In the bar, audience members are writing the names of their favourite femmes on doilies. [8]

What is the other? You might call it the mainstream: the dominant messages beamed from television, universities or even three year collaborative research programmes.

Five energetic dancers are wearing T-shirts with an old man’s face emblazoned on the front. They finish. We clap. They come back for another bow. And another. There are more curtain calls than there is dancing. We clap. We cheer. The poster behind them screams, ‘Chekhov is not our dad!’ [9]

But no-one wants to give the other a name – there’s no need, because it’s always there, and it’s always shifting.

Vaginal Davis opens her eyes wide and pouts directly into the camera. She loves criticism, she says. She loves being rejected. ‘It means they’ve really been paying attention.’ [10]

Here among friends (we are friends, aren’t we?) and for now, we might call this trash. Trash is the word for good humoured resistance.

1. Carmelita Tropicana at Musing Muses And FeMUSEum Ribbon Cutting (Fri 28 Oct, Toynbee Studios)

2. Nando Messias, at EAT YOUR HEART OUT Presents Performance Doesn't Matter (Wed 26 Oct, Toynbee Studios)

3. Baghdad’s Got Talent, at Performance Doesn’t Matter

4. Scottee, at Performance Doesn’t Matter

5. Marcia Farquhar, Open University (27 – 29 Oct, Outside Toynbee Studios)

6. Nao Bustamante, in THIS IS NOT A DREAM dir. Gavin Butt and Ben Walters (premiere, 27 Oct, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club)

7. Lois Weaver at Musing Muses and FeMUSEum

8. Amy Lamé at Musing Muses and FeMUSEum

9. Figs in Wigs, at Performance Doesn’t Matter

10. Vaginal Davis, in THIS IS NOT A DREAM


Saturday, 8 October 2011

#dawnchorus - performance 16/10/11

#dawnchorus - tweeting the dawn - will be performed at dawn on Sunday 16th October 2011 (approximately 5:35am to 8am) on Twitter.

Participating writers are: Amber Massie-Bloomfield, Joanna Brown,Tiffany Charrington, Eddy Dreadnought, Sally Labern, Tamarin Norwood, Mary Paterson and Natasha Vicars.

#dawnchorus is conceived by Natasha Vicars and developed in collaboration with Mary Paterson and the writers, as part of the Live Art Development Agency's DIY6 programme. For more information, please email, or see us on Twitter.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

NOTES on a return RRP

By Rachel Lois.

The results of my writing residencyScoring Notes on a Return,  in which I devised a score for writing performance live at the Laing, have been published in Notes on a return, by Art Editions North.

NOTES on a return features a series of exhibitions and a symposium which revisited five live artworks made at the Laing in 1985, 1986 and 1987 by influential artists Anne Bean, Rose English, Mona Hatoum, Bruce McLean and Nigel Rolfe. The publication examines ideas of memory, archive and the documentation of ephemeral practices and queries the reasons and conditions for remembering within the discourses of institution and art history. 

Fragments of my score are published alongside five new performances commissioned by the Laing  and serve variously as description, direction and punctuation.


Contributors: Christopher Bamford, Anne Bean, Sam Belinfante, Guy Brett, Ramsay Burt, Rachel Lois Clapham, Mike Collier, John Dummett, Rose English, Sofia Greff, Sophia Yadong Hao, Matthew Hearn, Simon Herbert, Graham Hudson, Bruce McLean, Meg Mosley, Nigel Rolfe, Andrea Tarsia, and Viola Yeşiltaç. Contains a Foreward by Amelia Jones and an Afterward by Lois Keidan.

Notes on a return can be purchased from Unbound at The Live Art Development Agency

Notes on a return, Art Editions North, Sunderland, 2010, 192 pages, 21cm x 13cm.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


The Open Dialogues manifestos talk of how and why we do things, and of the changing nature of these hows and whys (made, as several of them are, from previous mission statements). The manifestos are cumulative, exchanged between Rachel Lois and Mary, each being worked on in our respective homes before being swapped, annotated by the other and sent again through the post.




MAKE TIME (reverse)


All material c. Open Dialogues 2010

Trinity Laban: MA Dance Practice

Open Dialogues was invited to lead a day-long session for Trinity Laban MA Dance Practice students, as part of their ‘Writing the Body: Text as Interface’ course in March 2011.

‘Writing the Body’ is an exploration of writing the body; of what it might mean for writing to be a porous, informed and reflective interface between performance and text. It explores issues surrounding critical engagement with performance, and examine writing as practice within evolving dialogues between text and performance, and the expansion of new mediums and spaces for writing.

Following the structure of our Samtalekkkenet (Dining Kitchen) presentation, Mary spoke about Open Dialogues’ work. She was interrupted by textual interventions supplied by Rachel Lois Clapham, in the form of A4 sheets of paper with words, phrases or symbols on them.

Following our potentially wayward presentation one of the students asked Mary: ‘But what are you teaching us?’ This question is central to Open Dialogues' long term pedagogic project NOTA ...


Mary and Rachel Lois first spoke at Trinity Laban in 2007 as participants on Writing From Live Art – a professional development course aimed at increasing the quality and profile of writing about performance.

More on our critical model here

Open Dialogues Critical Model

Open Dialogues is a UK based collaboration, founded in 2008 by Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson, that produces critical writing on and as performance. We define critical writing as an intellectual encounter between writing and art. And the way we do things is deeply indebted to performance – to collaboration, documentation and the politics and processes of making and showing live work. Our model is also resistant to resolution, it is a living contract with our performance collaborators and an ongoing work in and of itself.

Here are some Open Dialogues manifestos.

Our critical model has been tested with partners such as Performance Saga, New Work Network, Performa, Spill and The Live Art Development Agency and features in several publications and symposiums. Below are a selection.

Open Dialogues are developing a pedagogic tool for writing on and as performance both in and out of academic institutions, called NOTA. More details soon.


Rachel Lois and Mary work together as Open Dialogues, and apart as writers and artists, to explore, stretch, test and experiment with the relationships between text, performance and criticality. Read more about us here and here.

Monday, 18 July 2011


In August and September 2011, Mary Paterson is working with Natasha Vicars to co-ordinate #dawnchorus, part of DIY 8 - a programme of peer to peer workshops for artists working in Live Art, organised by the Live Art Development Agency.

#dawnchorus is an opportunity to collaborate on devising and piloting a live writing work for Twitter.

Deadline for applications: Monday July 25th 2011

Project summary:

Drawing on your existing experience of writing within your art practice you will take part in a collaborative intervention in the 'public forum' of Twitter. In three days of structured workshops, supported by individual exploration and research, you will work with artists/writers from across the country to consider live, digital writing as a communal act and a response to ideas of place.

Extending the metaphor of the 'tweet' the project asks what happens when diverse voices are brought together in defence/celebration of individual territories as a 'dawn chorus' on Twitter.

Participants will develop and reflect on their use of writing particularly in response to place, in both digital and material contexts and explore the social medium Twitter as a new context for live performance.

After piloting, #dawnchorus is intended for further development and there may be opportunities to be part of a further performance/exhibition at the relaunch of the Irwell Sculpture Trail and/or at Bury Street Light Festival.

Dates: 15 - 16 August and 12 September.
Times: 10:30am - 5:30pm
Location: Meetings held in Bury - exact venue TBC.

Application procedure:

Open to artists at all stages of their careers who use text in their work and enjoy the craft of writing, and writers who have some engagement with contemporary art/live art.

Participants also need to have access to a laptop (alternatively an iPhone or equivalent device) and the internet, and be willing to get up very early to see dawn. No previous experience of Twitter needed.

Participants will arrange their own accommodation and travel to Bury, but a contribution towards expenses is available to all participants.

Expressions of interest should be emailed to Natasha Vicars at by 25 July. Include a 1-2 page attachment noting where you live and giving a short statement discussing what attracts you to the project, what you hope to gain and how writing features in your practice and an example of your writing of maximum 750 words.

The project organisers will review applications and select a varied group who have writing experience, and a spread of locations in the UK (including Manchester-Bury).

Saturday, 25 June 2011


By Rachel Lois Clapham

MIT Press, 2010

I have heard Marina Abramović publicly claim she created Performance Art; a typically grand claim by Abramović. The significance of the artist in relation to Performance Art – a significance that will be brought into widespread and acute focus upon her death - is no doubt the intriguing ‘?’ the portentous title of this biography hints at. Using the event of her death as a pivot then, we may ask of When Marina Abramović Dies, what might her death do to Performance Art? What might Performance Art be after Abramović dies? Might Abramović’s death be Performance Art? And, not to cheapen said event in any way, where can we get tickets? As a biography, written by the artists’ former assistant James Westcott, When Marina Abramović Dies, does not set out to answer such forward facing questions. It is, instead, crammed full of facts. Some big, some small. Here is a curious collection of some of those facts.

Stalin excommunicated Tito in 1948.

In the summer of 1977 and Ulay and Abramović island-hopped around the Adriatic, sunbathing and picnicking naked on the beaches.

Abramović’s parents celebrated her birthday on Yugoslavia Republic day.

Yugoslavia Republic day is not Abramović’s birthday.

In the 1970 Belgrade International Theatre Festival Abramović watched as a student broke eggs over a naked woman. At the time, she recalled she thought it was stupid.

Vojo Abramović (Abramović‘s father) was born into a poor family in Cetinje, Montenegro, on September 29, 1914, and grew up in Pec, Kosovo.

Abramović’s maternal Great Grandmother put every pot on the stove and filled them with water to create the illusion of a plentiful kitchen.

Abramović on the event of her death: ‘In the case of my death I would like to have this at my memorial ceremony: Three coffins. The first with my real body. The second coffin with an imitation of my body. The third coffin with an imitation of my body.’

Since, the 1950’s, Tito had enacted relatively laissez-faire reforms in the Yugoslav communist system, shifting from Stalinist command economy towards a unique program of quasi-independence for municipal and industrial bodies in which the workers shared in profits and ran their own factories (though the state still had the final say).

Abramović used to have a job delivering mail. A couple of weeks in, she decided to throw away all the letters on her round that looked like bills and deliver only those with nice handwriting on the envelope. She was promptly fired.

Abramović’s mother forced her to eat horse-meat. She would pretend to obediently finish everything on her plate, but sometimes, rather than swallow the last mouthful of meat, stored it under her tongue all night as she slept, and spat it out in the morning.

Abramović first met Uwe Laysiepen, or Ulay, on 30 November; her birthday, also his. To prove this co-incidence, Abramović and Ulay got out their respective diaries. Both had the page 30 November ripped out.

Abramović’s great-grandmother – Krasmana Pejatović-Rosić – summoned the entire family to her deathbed to watch her die. However, she went on living, for a while, despite her best intentions.

In 1970, Abramović made a proposal to the Doma Omaldine Gallery. The proposal consisted of Abramović standing in front of an audience in her own clothes, which she gradually changed, ending up wearing the kind of clothes her mother dressed her in (dowdy calf-length skirt, heavy stockings, orthopedic shoes). She would then put a pistol to hear head and pull the trigger. Instead, Abramović put on an exhibition of her cloud paintings.

The arguments between Abramović’s parents were relentless and violent.

The Yugoslavian establishment Fine Art style was academic modernism, a holdover from the 1950’s that addressed pictorial problems only and contained no real political or critical dimension.

Danica Abramović (Abramović’s mother, born Rosić) never kissed the young Marina, fearing it would spoil her.

Abramović felt an enormous need to be loved, which her mother never met.

Friends at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, remember Abramović as an exuberant young woman, confident in her beauty, fabulously gifted in communication - ‘famous to get under your skin’ as fellow student Zoran Popovic puts it – and almost obsessively optimistic.

Abramović painted figuratively, prolifically and with gusto, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade. She used bigger canvases than any of her peers could afford- about 5 ft by 5 ft.

In Rhythm 0, Studio Morra, Naples, 1975, someone wrote ‘IO SONO LIBERO’ (I am free) in lipstick on a mirror and made Abramović hold it. Someone wrote ‘END’ across her forehead. Someone else slowly poured a cup of water on her head. Someone else wiped the tears from her eyes. The gallerist drove Abramović back to her hotel when the performance was finished. When she awoke the next morning, Abramović noticed a clump of her hair had turned gray.

As an infant Abramović was carried across town every day in order that she could be breast-fed by her mother.

Abramović says she was never breast-fed.

An exhibition at the SKC in October 1971 was arguably Abramović’s first performance. She lay down on a table in one of the adjacent galleries for no other particular reason than because she was tired - fellow artist Era Milivojević mummified her prone body with some packing tape he happened to have handy.

With her parents’ illustrious war record and prestigious public roles, political and economic hardship was absent from Abramović’s life.

Marina on working with Hermann Nitsch: ‘I wanted to see how far I could work within another artist’s concept. And I found out that I didn’t have the motivation for this. I was irritated and repulsed by the smell of the blood, it was like a strange Back Mass. I felt something very medievally negative, without any solution or opening. I couldn’t see through the piece, and so I had to stop.’

In the summer of 1977 and Ulay and Abramović island-hopped around the Adriatic, sunbathing and picnicking naked on the beaches.

The Life and Death of Marina Abramović featuring Robert Wilson, Marina Abramović, Antony, Willem Dafoe is showing at The Lowry as part of the Manchester International Festival 2011. See here for details.