Balkan Erotic Epic and memory of the body

Balkan Erotic Epic and memory of the body

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


In the Balkan Erotic Epic (2005) multi-channel video installation Marina Abramović – the Grandmother of the Performance, as she calls herself – combines performance with ritual. She returns to the pagan roots, reffering to Balkan beliefs and practices, in which the body and sexuality play the key role. By recreating ritual activities , she shows the body in dialouge with nature. According to ancient beliefs fertility of the soil is inextricably linked to human fertility. Abramović’s monumental installation sublimates human vital and erotic functions – we find here the expression of pleasure drawn from visually aggressive sexual practices displaced by culture, and especially religion.

The installation can be seen within the BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE/ AFFECTIVE OPERATIONS exhibition in Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland, 09.05 – 02.07.2017.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Affect is construed here as the body’s automatic reaction to external stimuli or internal processes. These reactions, pleasant or not, occur beyond consciousness and the rational mind, and are not immediately subject to cognitive reflection. Affect is commonly identified with emotions, but in the context of this exhibition it is a proto-emotion: an experience of ‘intensity’ (anxiety, tension, tremor, uncertainty, experienced in the body, under the skin) that – when cognitively worked through, made conscious – triggers off specific emotions such as joy, fear, disgust, shame, anger, and many other related emotional nuances.

I sincerely recommend to see Marina Abramović’s installation and the whole BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE/ AFFECTIVE OPERATIONS exhibition (17 artists), although reception of it is not easy, indeed. In confrontation with the majority of the works I felt the above mentioned negative emotions and strong discomfort.