Florence, Marina Abramović attacked by an artist: I did it for my art

Florence, Marina Abramović attacked by an artist at Palazzo Strozzi, who defended himself: 'I did it for my art.'

It could have entailed far worse outcomes for the attack suffered by Marina Abramović (Belgrade, 1944) at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence today: the artist, in the Tuscan capital for her retrospective exhibition The Cleaner which opened on Friday, was in fact attacked in the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi by a man, who hit her with a canvas on the head. He was a 51-year-old artist, who had a portrait of Abramović with him, and thought to break it over her head. She emerged unharmed from the attack: immediately after the attack she went to the bar of Palazzo Strozzi accompanied by the staff, while the attacker, immediately immobilized by those present, was stopped by the police. He was Vaclav Pisvejc, no stranger to similar acts: in January, for example, he had defaced Urs Fischer ’s Big Clay sculpture on display in Piazza della Signoria.

Abramović decided not to press charges, but then wanted to meet with Pisvejc, who defended himself by claiming, “I had to do it for my art.” Abramović went on to say that this is the first time such a thing has happened to her, and especially that it is not art to use violence on others. “In my work,” Abramović stressed, “I stage different situations and put my life on the line. But this is my decision and I set the conditions.”

Marina Abramović also recounted the incident in detail, “Among the crowd was a man in his 40s who was carrying a painting depicting my face in a distorted way. He approached looking straight into my eyes, and I smiled at him, thinking it was a gift for me. In a split second I saw his expression change and become violent, coming toward me very quickly and with great force. You know, dangers always come very quickly, like death itself. And you have to be very alert to catch the challenge. I didn’t see it right away. All of a sudden it slammed the painting violently into my head, trapping me inside the frame. Everything happened very quickly. Then the guards isolated and stopped him, and the director Arturo took me to the back of the bar in the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi to calm me down. I was in shock. But the first thing I asked was, I want to talk to him, I want to know why he did it. Why this hatred against me?”

In addition, said the artist, “Everyone was very surprised that I wanted to talk to this person. But I am like that. I never run away from problems. I deal with them. So they brought him to me and I asked him, ’Why did you do that? What is the reason? Why this violence?” I hadn’t done anything to him. I had never met him before. He said, “I had to do it for my art.” That was his answer. It is difficult for me to understand and process violence. This is the first time something like this has happened to me. And I still can’t understand it. With violence on others you don’t make art. I was also a young artist who was not famous but I never hurt anyone. In my work I enact different situations and put my life at risk. But this is my decision and I set the conditions. After everything that happened I went back to the hotel. I took a shower, changed my shirt and went out again. In the past I would have been angry about something like this, but today I feel compassion. The hardest thing is to forgive but one has to be able to do it as the Dalai Lama says."

The Serbian artist received solidarity from the director of Palazzo Strozzi, Arturo Galansino, who was among the first to reassure her (he was present at the time of the attack), and the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella. YouTube and several other sites feature video of the attack.

Pictured is the moment when Vaclav Pisvejc is blocked by those present.

Florence, Marina Abramović attacked by an artist: I did it for my art
Florence, Marina Abramović attacked by an artist: I did it for my art

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