Home Is Where: Marina Abramović

Home Is Where is a festive archive project exploring home and belonging. This post is by David Barron, a Modern Art Oxford volunteer and a sociologist.

This season, Marina Abramović’s work reminds us that home is not always the warm, loving environment that we would wish. 

Growing up, her home life was far from comfortable. Both her parents were partisan heroes from the war, but were very different people. Her father was an army general, someone who loved to live life on the edge. Her mother, on the other hand, was a germophobe, meaning Abramović was often confined to the home. At one point, she smeared brown shoe polish on the walls of her room to keep her mother out. It’s not difficult to see the connection to one of the pieces in the 1995 show, a video shown on a stack of five screen in which the artist is seen vigorously cleaning a skeleton with soap and a broom. 

In the Piper Gallery, a series of sculptures, which Abramović did not consider to be complete without the public interacting with them, consisted of familiar household objects—chairs, tables, beds, a mirror—located in separate “cells”.  Visitors were instructed to enter the cells alone, shut the door and sit or lie on these objects.  The experience would have been disconcerting: the chairs were too high, the bed made of wood with a black quartz pillow.  Not everyone’s experience of home is comfortable.

Home Is Where is our second festive archive project created by volunteers and front of house staff. Designed to inspire hope and positive change for the times ahead, this year’s theme focuses on home and belonging. A major Marina Abramović exhibition will open at Modern Art Oxford in September 2022.