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An Institutional Travesty: Risk as a Strategy in Marina Abramovic's Performance Role Exchange

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Playing the game with an institutional travesty is Marina Abramovic's strategy in Role Exchange (1974). The performance consisted of role exchange with a prostitute and was executed in two institutions: De Appel Gallery and the red light district in Amsterdam. It addresses questions of boundaries of the artwork, its status as the visual art object, the role of the art-trade and the problematic of authorship. In Role Exchange transgression between the homogenous space of the gallery and the heterogeneous, volatile space of the red light district is a move against the artworld and its mechanisms of trading. This work is also aimed against the artwork itself as an active factor in corroborating with this system of trading. By intermingling the sphere of everyday life with the autonomous realms of galleries, this piece plays with the possibility of contaminating the sterile museum world with the facts of life, and the artworld with everyday experience.

Keywords: Performance; art-trade; artist; authorship; everyday; gallery; institutions; prostitute; transgression; travesty

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09528820903184765

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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