This book details one day in the life of many different creative people and was shot on July 6 2011 in Manchester UK, and published in 2012. It is a photographic account of the final day of dress rehearsal of Robert Wilson's staged biography of Marina  Abramovic's  life (and death) entitled "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic".  It was my first time meeting both Robert Wilson and Marina Abramovic, who's works I've always greatly admired (Marina's "The Artist is Present" piece was one of the great works I was fortunate enough to experience in my lifetime, and the black and white archival images of she and Ulay were formative images in my development as an artist - I was thrilled to be able to be making images of her). The day started by my meeting Robert Wilson in his hotel room where he was drawing (as he does in the morning). The book starts with an introductory text by Jorn Weisbrodt, and includes contributions from other cast members, including Marina, Willem Dafoe, Anohni, and a score by William Basinski. Such a talented cast of artists, I was thrilled to be able to document them working.

- Tim Hailand, Los Angeles 2023

Performance and theater one can compare to big family. They are tied by love and hate, and they will always need and look for each other.

- Marina Abramovic

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MARINA ABRAMOVIC was an intense meeting of unlikely collaborators and traditions.  These photos were taken on the nerve wracking final rehearsal day. There was so much left to do! I needed to rehearse cueing since I was responsible for most of the text and transitions, Anohni needed to rehearse the musicians, Marina had to sing her song, costume changes had yet to be timed, many things to practice, some of the show was not even finished!  Bob was perfectly calm. That day he took hours to adjust one light, one gesture and rehearse the performers in the art of walking on the stage... In the end, somehow he magically made the piece come together. I always felt like we were animals or objects in a landscape Bob paints with color and light. It was a transforming experience.

- Willem Dafoe, Rome December 2011

Four years ago Marina Abramovic called me and told me she wanted Bob Wilson to direct her biography, a rather startling and unusual request from one artist to another. This was not the first time that she had done this - more than 10 years ago Marina staged her biography herself, then she asked the Belgian theater director Michael Laub to interpret her life, but the third time would be he ultimate. As she explained to me, it was because she wants to be buried in three different places so nobody will know where the real Marina is. She had planned her funeral already, the music, the coffin, everything. She would put a binder together with all her work, her life, and show it to Bob Wilson to convince him to stage it. She explained that as an artist she has total control over her work, but she wanted no control over her life. A few months later, Robert Wilson and I went to Marina’s sparse and beautiful loft in New York’s SoHo. Marina explodes on the inside with ideas, thoughts, and emotions, so she tries to keep the outside very simple and empty. There couldn’t be two more different artists in the same room than there was on that afternoon. Robert Wilson, the “cold-passioned” Texan for whom silence is the most elegant form of communication, and Marina Abramovic, the “hot, sensual” Serbian who exhales words with every breath she takes. The two artists had met in 1968 in Belgrade at the beginning of each other’s careers and now, almost 50 years and two huge and extreme careers in their respective artistic fields later, as related to each other as prison cells but also as separated from each other.

Marina and Bob sat down and she handed him the folder with her life in it and a letter explaining her great wish. She tried to let him read the letter but her excitement was so big that she took it out of his hands and read it aloud. She wanted to have no control, he could do with her life whatever he wanted to do. He has total control was basically what the letter in her hands said. And then she went through the folder with him, images of her work, Marina sitting on a white horse, Marina in a burning star, Marina brushing her hair, stories of her childhood, her artist manifesto, Marina crying with onions, et cetera. She wanted to have a Russian army chorus, she explained, the opening scene would have to be her suspended from a cross with a snake around her neck because her other two biographies opened like that. Maybe Ulay’s son could re-perform her and Ulay’s pieces on stage with her. She wanted Serbian music, knew who should design her costumes, and much more. Wilson was too polite to say anything. I said, “Marina, you want to give up control?”And finally she did. It took a few years and the combined efforts of Alex Poots of the Manchester International Festival and Gerard Mortier of Madrid’s Teatro Real, who lead the way as co-commissioners of the piece, and the many others who followed.It also took a few years to develop the piece.

Wilson chooses to stage her funeral as the first scene, there is no army chorus (it was too expensive and Wilson did not really want it), no re-performances or images of her past work - he was absolutely focused on her life, not her oeuvre. Antony performs his music himself and has never looked more beautiful on stage, thanks to Jacques Reynaud’s stunning costumes, Willem Dafoe shows that great actors can even be greater, and, most importantly, Marina plays the role of her life: her mother. The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic became, with Wilson’s and Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, probably one of the most unusual collaborations between two great artists. It is a theater piece that is almost addictive, it starts so good and gets better and better and after three hours of sheer theatrical bliss you wish you could start all over again, like the famous Wagner soprano who said of her first Isolde that it was better than an orgasm and she could have started from the top again. As you leaf through this beautiful book, you run through the day of the dress rehearsal of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic with Robert Wilson himself, and the can start at the top over and over again to see how this incredible work of art came to life. An afterthought: I do not know if the piece resolves the dichotomy between performance art and theater - the real blood against the fake blood - but it does show the differences and definitions do not matter at all when you are in the presence of painful and sheer beauty. It does, though, break down the common ground from which we set up these definitions in the first place. It is the real and the fake blood that pumps in our cultural hearts.

-  Jorn Weisbrodt, Montauk November 2011


For so long I've obeyed that feminine decree

I've always contained your desire to hurt me

But when will I turn and cut the world?

When will I turn and cut the world?

My eyes are coral, absorbing your dreams

My heart is a record of dangerous scenes

My skin is a surface to push to extremes

But when will I turn and cut the world?

When will I turn and cut the world?

 - lyrics by Anohni