Cleaning the Mirror no. 1
- Artist: Marina Abramovic
- Creation date: 1995
- Object type: Video installation
Marina Abramovic’s work is intimately tied to her own body, including a performative encounter with the body of the viewer. In 1995 Abramovic made a series of works with the title Cleaning the Mirror (I, II and III). The video installations are based on performances which Abramovic gave at the Oxford University and Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford in 1995. Each video was recorded in real time. Also the sounds of water, scrubbing, and breathing are recorded directly from the original performance.
In Cleaning the Mirror I, we are shown different parts of a skeleton – the head, the chest, the hands, the pelvis, and the feet – on five monitors stacked on top of each other forming a slightly larger than life (human) body. On the parts of the skeleton one sees the hands of the artist scrubbing the bones with a floorbrush.
Abramovic describes the instructions for her performance as follows: “I sit with a skeleton on my lap, next to me is a bucket filled with soapy water. With my right hand I vigorously brush different parts of the skeleton.”
The title “Cleaning the Mirror” – is an old Zen Buddhist metaphor for emptying the mind. For more than forty years Abramovic has used different mental and physical confrontational techniques in order to achieve this mental calmness in her performances. The skeleton she uses here, symbolizes death. In Western art tradition a scull has been used as a symbol of the perishability of life. Facing one’s own death could be interpreted as “cleaning the mirror”.