By MARK BLOCH, SEPT. 2018
Last Sunday the 23rd, performance artist Marina Abramović was signing books and promoting her retrospective exhibition, The Cleaner, in a Florence gallery, when she was attacked and struck with a portrait of herself by Vaclav Pisvejc, a 51-year-old Czech national currently residing in Florence, who bashed her over the head with it. Abramović was “stunned but unhurt” in the assault. “Marina Abramović is fine and has not suffered any physical damage. After checking with the police she serenly departed Palazzo Strozzi," the curator, Arturo Galansino, wrote on Instagram.
As Abramović was originally to leave the location, the aspiring Czech artist approached her with a “distorted” portrait herself she thought was a gift. “He came forward, staring me straight in the eyes,” she said. “I smiled thinking that it was a present for me. In a fraction of a second I saw his expression change and become violent. You know, danger always comes very quickly, like death.”
The attacker was immediately stopped by the police. Guards isolated and stopped him according to reports, “and the director took me in the back of the bar in the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi to reassure me. I was in shock,” said the victim.
The Florence mayor Dario Nardella tweeted that Abramović’s aggressor was “not new to this type of gesture.” Abramović refused to press charges and instead asked to meet the assailant to directly confront him on the reasons for this action. Pisvejc reportedly told her “'I had to do it for my art'. This was his answer,” she said.
The 72 year old Serbian born Abramović later stated, “Violence against others doesn’t make art.”
Some of the incident was captured on video by a person in attendance at the back of the crowds. After a sharp cracking sound is heard piercing the silence twice in the distance, the attacker is seen sprawled on the ground next to a ripped canvas with broken wooden stretchers where he was handcuffed as bystanders shouted disapproving comments in Italian.
The director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation Arturo Galansino, curator of the exhibition in the institution until January 20, 2019, expressed his sorrow in a tweet “for the aggression suffered by the artist in the courtyard immediately after the conclusion of another very successful public event signing Marina Abramovic Interviews 1976-2018.”
He added that a public conference earlier in the week at the Maggio Musciale Fiorentino Theater was attended by over 1,500 people.
Abramovic told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, “For me, it is difficult to understand and process violence,” adding, “I was also a young artist who was not famous, but I have never hurt anyone. In my work I stage different situations and put my life at risk. But this is my decision and I set the conditions.”
In March 2017, the assailant Vaclav Pisvejc undressed and remained naked with arms crossed at around 3 pm in the middle of Florence's crowded Piazza Signoria and remained so until the intervention of the city police. At the same location, in September 2017, at the 30th Biennale Internazionale d’Antiquariato di Firenze, the perpetrator defaced, with red paint, a sculpture, Big Clay #4, by the Swiss artist Urs Fischer.
“In the past I would have been angry for such a thing,” Abramović said about her encounter with Pisvejc, “but today I feel compassion.” WM
Mark Bloch is a writer, performer, videographer and multi-media artist living in Manhattan. In 1978, this native Ohioan founded the Post(al) Art Network a.k.a. PAN. NYU's Downtown Collection now houses an archive of many of Bloch's papers including a vast collection of mail art and related ephemera. For three decades Bloch has done performance art in the USA and internationally. In addition to his work as a writer and fine artist, he has also worked as a graphic designer for ABCNews.com, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and PO Box 1500 NYC 10009.
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