Cleaning the Mirror I
Marina Abramovic, 1995

Viewing this artwork is possible at the LIMA media library in Amsterdam


Originally the first in a series of three performances, 'Cleaning the Mirror I' has been transformed into a five-channel video installation. In the performance, Abramovic sits with a skeleton on her lap, next to her a bucket with soapy water. With her right hand, she vigorously brushes the different parts of the skeleton. In the installation, each of the five channels is dedicated to one the skeleton's body parts: the feet, the hands, the ribs, the pelvis and the head. In each of the videos, one can see a component of the carcass together with a part of Abramovic's own body, mostly her hands. There is no separate soundtrack, the sounds of soap and water, scrubbing and breathing are recorded directly with the images, which has as an effect that they start to verlap, as there are several channels. By being cleaned, the colour of the skeleton becomes lighter, whereas the greyish dirt which once coated the bones starts to cover Abramovic herself. Close-ups of Abramovic's hands and the body parts of the skeleton exhibit a kind of 'family-likeness' between the two. The boundaries between the actor and the 'object' acted upon start to blur; the dead and the alive start to intermingle. As for Abramovic the skeleton metaphorically represents '…the last mirror we will all face', death and temporality are the major themes addressed in this work. The first channel of the installation, showing the head of the skeleton, is also part of the 16-channel installation 'Video Portrait Gallery' (Abramovic 1975-2002). Read more...

  • Date: 1995
  • Type: Installation
  • Copyrights: All rights reserved (c) LIMA
  • Genre: body art, performance (artwork genre)
  • Keywords: installation - multi-channel video installation, registration (technique), body, death, life, installation - sculpture