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The Lips of Thomas by Marina Abramović, 1976

First performed in 1976, The Lips of Thomas heavily references both religion and communism; at its premiere, it similarly transformed the passive audience into actors. Abramović begins this performance with sticky, transubstantiated reverence, consuming more than two pounds of honey and a liter of wine. After whipping herself to numbness, she carves a five-pointed star into her stomach with a razor blade. Abramović then lays on a crucifix fashioned from blocks of ice, with a heater positioned over her stomach. As the star’s bleeding is hastened by warmth, the rest of her body begins to freeze.

At the 1976 premiere, the audience was unable to watch for more than half an hour. After 30 minutes, members of the audience retrieved Abramović from the crucifix and carried her off set. The two subsequent performances, in 1983 and 2005 have lasted significantly longer; in 2005, at the Guggenheim, the performance lasted for a full seven hours.

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