“How do you know, you’re an artist? That’s the main question. (…) It’s like breathing. (…) So if you wake up in the morning and you have some ideas and you have to make them and it has become some kind of obsession that you have to create, and you have this urge to create, you’re definitely an artist. You’re not a great artist, you’re an artist. To be a great artist, there are all different kind of rules…”

“The great astists have to be ready to fail which is something not many people do. Because if you have success, then the public accepts you in a certain way, you start somehow involuntarily reproduce the same images, the same type of work. And you’re not risking. Real artists always change the territories. They go to the land where they’ve never been. (…) And there you can fail. That failure actually is what makes this “extra”. The readiness to fail is what makes great artists.”

“As a young one, if you want to be famous and rich, you just can forget about it. It’s not a good idea being an artist. The money and the success is not the aim. It’s just a side effect.”

“I had an old pfrofessor whom I loved very much. He gave me two advices. He said: If you’re drawing with your right hand and you’re getting better and better, and you become vituous, you can do it with closed eyes, you can draw anything you want, the immediately change to the left hand. That was an important advice, because if you become ‘routine’, that’s the end of everything. And the second great advice, he said to me: ‘In your life time you’ll probably have one good idea, if you’re a really good artist. And if you’re a genius, two good ideas, and that’s it. But be careful with them.”

“When I was young I had a lot of ideas, but they weren’t linear. So I never developed a certain style that would be recognized. So I had this obsession about one thing, and I had to do it. And mostly I would do the work I’m afraid of. If I’m afraid of an idea, this is exactly the point I have to go to. If you do the things you like, you never change, there is nowhere. You will always do the same shit again and again. But if you do things that you don’t know, that you’re afraid of, something really different, then it’s really important to go to that different pattern. (…)
One of my exercises for my students: For three months they had to buy hundreds of sheets of paper and one rubbish can. And every day the will sit on the chair and write good ideas. And the ones they like, they put on the left side of the table, and the ones they don’t like they put in the rubbish. And after three months, they all want to present the good ideas. I’m totally not interested in good ideas. I just took the rubbish cans. And every single idea was incredible, the ones you reject, the ones you don’t want to deal with.”

“It’s also interesting which media you should use. You may be a painter, and if you want to be a performer it doesn’t work. (…) You have to know which tool is best for your expression. So for me, to recognize a good performance artist is really simple: The idea can be totally shit, the execution can be wrong, but it’s just the way how he stands, and that’s it. In the space, you know, how you occupy physically the space, and what that standing does to everybody else looking at that person. That kind of difference really makes the difference. It’s a certain energy. You recognize it right away. And you can learn how to execute things, ideas and all the rest. But it’s about energy you cannot learn. You have to have it. It’s just there, when you’re born.” [Here I would disagree. I’ve seen students freeing themselves from their own limitations, gaining an extraordinary stage presence. – DR]

“One of the lectures [lessons??] of Robert Wilson when I was doing the theater piece with him. He was saying to the actors and to me: “When you’re standing in one place and you take it to the next movement, you’re not present.” So this is an incredibly important lesson. When you’re standing in one place, you can’t think of the next step. The next step has to come with your body and mind together. Otherwise you’re missing that moment of presence. So, it’s a hard thing to do, but it’s quite important. There are lots of exercises how to learn that presence.”

Marina Abramovic – To be an artist, to be present
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