Marina Abramović's Grueling, Hardcore Journey to Brazil

Marina, on drinking ayahuasca: "It's not exactly champagne."

by Kara Weisenstein
Dec 13 2016, 8:37pm

All images courtesy the artist

This article originally appeared on Creators.

Physical pain doesn't intimidate the inimitable Marina Abramović, but spiritual agony is another matter. In 2012, the artist traveled to Brazil in search of a salve for her "emotional and personal troubles." The resulting quest for healing and artistic inspiration is chronicled in a stunning new documentary, Marina Abramović in Brazil: The Space In Between. While roaming the country, visiting herbalists and shamans, religious sects, and a psychic surgeon, Abramović seeks out ancient remedies, including drinking ayahuasca in the jungle, which she calls "the worst experience of my life." The film, which debuted at the South by Southwest Film Festival last spring, was released on Vimeo today. You can watch it below:

Marina Abramović in Brazil: The Space in Between from Casa Redonda on Vimeo

The most famous performance artist in the world, Abramović has never been shy about using her body as the basis for her work. Some of her earliest work centered on physical challenges, like stabbing 20 knives between the fingers of her outstretched hands ( Rhythm 10, 1973). Later work, like her famous three-month sojourn at the Museum of Modern Art ( The Artist Is Present, 2010), are centered on mental and emotional feats. "I don't do privacy at all, I never have," she tells The Creators Project. "I think that for me, it was very important that my life becomes an open book for everybody."

The Space In Between is no exception. Abramović puts herself through rituals that leave her vulnerable and exposed. In one scene, naked and covered in mud, the artist struggles to break an egg that has supposedly absorbed negative energy from her body. Her guttural scream, as she squeezes the egg between her palms, is heartwrenching. Putting her body through these ordeals, however, is hardly masochistic. For her, it's a way of cleansing the soul in order to create something new.

"I really believe that an idea comes like a hologram—out of nowhere," Abramović says in the documentary. "I love to live in the space in between. The space in between, for me, is one of the most greatest spaces for artists to be. It is when you leave all habits and are completely open to destiny. You're open to new ideas when everything is so vulnerable, because you're out of your comfort zone."

Part travel film and part spiritual thriller, The Space In Between is a behind-the-scenes peek at Abramovic's creative process. It's a fascinating ride that traverses remote hamlets as well as bustling towns throughout the gargantuan South American country. The film is directed by Marco Del Fiol, a filmmaker who has spent more than 15 years documenting the work of contemporary artists like Olafur Eliasson, Isaac Julien, and Marepe. Breathtaking cinematography captures the lush Brazilian jungle; particularly arresting images feature Abramovic standing in a white gown beneath a waterfall and bathing in a crystalline stream.

Though her life and her work are inextricably intertwined, what may not always be apparent from her performances is Abramović's humanity. One of the chief merits of The Space In Between is that it portrays her outside of her art, as a complicated, curious person searching for answers—just like the rest of us.

"I wanted to actually go through this experience in a moment of my life that was difficult. [The public] has to see that if I can heal myself, they can too. I become an example to them," Abramović says. "I really healed myself, and I really went through this experience, and I'm free. And actually, I've never felt better than I do right now. This is a good time in my life."

Marina Abramović in Brazil: The Space In Between is now available to stream on Vimeo.