‘The Life and Death of Marina Abramović’
Marina Abramović, Robert Wilson, Antony and Willem Dafoe

19 May 2012 - 15 July 2012

Through the eyes of the artist, the director, the composer and the actor

For many years ‘godmother of performance art’ Marina Abramović and renowned director Robert Wilson had been intending to work together. Ultimately this took shape with the opera project The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. Abramović placed her personal archives at Wilson’ disposal, and from these he forged a magnificent production involving Marina Abramović herself, composer/singer Antony and actor Willem Dafoe. This phenomenal cast plays out the theatrical narrative of images envisaged by Wilson.

In collaboration with Marina Abramović, De Ketelfactory has compiled a kaleidoscopic ‘making of’ in which unique contributions can be seen. In Confession, for example, a recording of a performance by Abramović tells the stories that came up in the opera. Robert Wilson has kindly lent us his sketches for the production. And aside from photographs of the scenes, we are able to let our visitors see photographs of the rehearsel process and hear music from the opera.

Kim Everdine Zeegers has produced a film specially for the exhibition. Here the artist, the director, the composer and the actor candidly descibe their contributions, their fascinations and inspirations. The interviews with Abramović, Wilson, Antony and Dafoe have been adapted for this Ketelfactory publication and can now be read in print.

About the exhibition, Winnie Teschmacher says: “Abramović has held my interest for years, but since I sat across from her in New York, during her performance “The Artist is Present” I could think of only one thing: this artist must be given a place in De Ketelfactory. The way in which life and work can converge in one person is so inspiring.”

Marina Abramović 

Marina Abramović is a performance artist who uses her own body and life to an extreme degree in her work. Extreme pain, fear, exhaustion, danger, mortality, energy and enlightenment are key words in her oeuvre. Interaction with the audience is essential to her performances. She leaves the viewer with an indelible impression. For many years she formed a duo with Ulay; this collaboration ended after their project which involved walking across the entire length of the Great Wall of China.

Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson: “I’ve had the fortune to be able to work all over the world. I believe that the work ‘The Life and Death of Marina Abramović’ is a result of that. I can see the influences of my travels to Iran, China, Brazil, Latin America and European countries. Now I’m seventy and find it particularly important to support young people in their work and to concern myself with what’s going on. The reason why I work as an artist is to ask questions. Once an artist knows what their work is about, there’s no longer a reason for creating it. The reason for our work is the question: ‘What is it?”

Antony Hegarty

“I don’t wish to behave any other way than the way I essentially am,” says Antony. “I’m a singer, not an actor. I’m an artist in my own way, but I don’t put myself in anyone else’s shoes. Of course I do stand in the spotlight, but I’m not aiming for a personal transformation as an actor does. My skills are completely different. Really, I’m a singer, a musician. Performing means that you take possession of a space, that you fill the surrounding space. That space can be fraught with possibilities.”


Date: 17 June 2012
In collaboration with: Ingrid van Santen and Omid Hashemi

Ingrid van Santen on performance art since Abramović
How, in 2012, does performance art still differ from theatre? How did Abramović’s work evolve through time and how did that affect performance art as a genre? Art historic Ingrid van Santen experienced performance art from up close during her studies in Amsterdam in the 70’s. She delivers a lecture on the work of Marina Abramović.

Omid Hashemi
What’s it like to collaborate on a mega project like the opera ‘The Life and Death of Marina Abramović’? Omid Hashemi has been studying Marina Abramović’s work since 2009 and worked on the production as an intern. He tells a first-hand story about the project and the artists.

video portrait


The interviews with Abramović, Wilson, Antony and Dafoe, which Kim Everdine Zeegers held for the video portrait, have been adapted for the publication, which will appear in Dutch and English.
Marina Abramović in the publication: “I always ask myself this question: where is an idea coming from? Is it coming from inside or outside? Sometimes something comes from inside yourself and sometimes it just appears in front of you like a three-dimensional image. If an idea comes from outside, I have to know: does it frighten me or do I like it? If I like it, I’m not interested. I’m only interested in ideas that disturb me, and that are difficult to realise. Then they become a kind of obsession and the more I think about them, the more I want to find a way to actualise them.”

articles (in Dutch)

Ieder jaartal doet pijn – Hester Cavalho in NRC Handelsblad

press release (in Dutch)