The family A. «Eight Lessons on Emptiness with a Happy End» series
Technique: C-print on dibond
Dimensions: 150 x 120 cm
Es Baluard Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma
Eight Lessons on Emptiness with a Happy End reflects the concern of the artist of Serbian origin, Marina Abramović, with the excess of violence in today’s society. Referring to the concept of void in Buddhism (to attain harmony between body and soul, you must first empty your mind in order to allow the transformation to a new state to take place), the artist created this work in 2008 to deal with the constant presence of violence and war, both of which are continuously represented in the contemporary media. Evoking a text by Susan Sontag from the book Regarding the Pain of Others, in which the US author deals with the roots of water, Abramović reflects on the hundreds of images showing people’s death that we see on the Internet, in newspapers, on television and even in video games, with no desire for redemption.
To produce the project the artist chose to travel to Laos, where she developed a multi-channel video and a series of photographs, including The Family A, which is in the Es Baluard collection. The project was conceived in 2006 when she first visited this country; there, as sources of inspiration, she used her life experience with a shaman whom she saw sacrificing a pig in order to enter the spiritual world, and at the same time observed how children could buy toy guns whilst the ceremony of some Buddhist monks was in progress. The video consists of an installation formed by five channels which show the landscape of Laos through static images and then introduce the different phases of an armed conflict (negotiation, battle, transportation of captives …) featuring children dressed in military clothes, in the style of “tableaux vivants”.
At the same time the artist took a series of photographs in which she appears again, alongside the children who were in the video. With the clear intention of calling on the compassion of the spectator, in The Family A – as in the rest of the photographs in the series – Abramović proposes a controlled re-enactment. Resembling the typical composition of a family portrait, a child dressed in a soldier’s uniform sits on her knees, both of them with an inexpressive face in front of a neutral background and in a frontal position. The child holding the gun in his hands is used by the artist as a symbol of the violence-innocence duality, giving rise to a new iconography to represent the possibility of redemption.