Role Exchange
Marina Abramovic, 1975

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In 1975, Marina Abramovic had been a professional artist for 10 years. On the evening of July 2 of that year, the artist exchanged places with Suze, a woman who was a professional prostitute for 10 years as well. Both took on each other's roles for four hours – Abramovic sat in the prostitute's display window in Amsterdam's red light district, while Suze stood in for Marina Abramovic at the opening of her exhibition at De Appel.
Both of them bore full responsibility for their unusual four-hour occupation. Their experiences where registered by means of two Super 8 cameras, to be shown simultaneously at De Appel during an exhibition till July 15.

Like many of Marina Abramovic' works, 'Role Exchange' deals with the female body – in this case in relation t
architecture, space and the extreme social contexts in which women operate. By adopting the role of prostitute, Abramovic places herself within a space defined by explicitly masculine criteria, in which women construct an identity or fantasy catered to men's desires. On the other hand, Suze, the prostitute, performs a role within another carefully constructed social context: the art world, where such an 'intrusion' from everyday life highlights an art space's particular rituals and power structures as well. In this way, 'Role Exchange' emphasises and shifts our perceptions, categorisations and expectations of the social environment and asks the question of authenticity – pointing out that identity is constructed by performing within the social systems in which we find ourselves.

'Role Exchange' is available as a two-channel installation.
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  • Date: 1975
  • Type: Installation
  • Copyrights: All rights reserved (c) LIMA
  • Genre: performance (artwork genre), body art, (experimental) documentary (artwork genre)
  • Keywords: consumption, commerce, work, sex/pornography, power, body, other, the, artist, identity, gender, feminism, installation - multi-channel video installation