EATING YOURSELF: Marko Marković
Marko Marković is a Croatian artist working across the mediums of video, installation and performance. In his works Markovic often includes the audience and other participants as the medium of expression.
The following is a transcript of the conversation between Marko Marković and Zane Cerpina in October 2016, in the Youth House in Belgrade (Serbia).
Zane Cerpina (ZC): You work with the topic of auto-cannibalism and human flesh consumption in your performance works. Can you tell more about your work Selfeater?
Marko Marković (MM): First, I would like to relay the project in the context of human behavior and consumption regarding the present time. In the past, in challenging, extreme and brutal circumstances; if people came to the point where there was no food, they would perform cannibalism. Of course, we know that in certain tribes, the cannibalistic rituals were performed in a way to transfer relative energy through the body of dead people - to uplift them in the new life. This would be the starting point for me. However, in my performances, I did self-consumption as a reflection on modern society and today's human principles.
I did self-consumption
as a reflection on modern society
The first performance SELFEATER / The thirst (2009) (1) about self-consumption deals with our needs to have a voice and direct our destiny. To exemplify, I was drinking my blood through a straw inserted into my intravenous system.
I was drinking my blood
through a straw inserted
into my intravenous system
Before I was doing this type of performance, I talked to the doctors, and they explained to me in which way I need to behave, in a physical way, not to harm myself, because that was not the point of the performance. The point was to give the statement. After, I went a step further and performed SELFEATER/ Hunger (2009) (2) in which I made a dinner with myself. There was a big white table; a waiter set the table and the medical nurse cut out the piece of the flesh from my left arm. It was then served on the plate, and I ate it. It was a type of ritual as it observes a cultural aspect of the environment.
The medical nurse cut out
the piece of the flesh
from my left arm
These performances came in particular period of my life when I could perceive the growing divisions among the social classes. They were acts of protest and revolt against system apparatus. With these actions, I have sent out the message to the public that we are the owners of our own life, our body, and our soul. Some of us urge to resist authorities and understand our freedom as the principles of Anarchism teach us: “The liberty of man consists solely in this, that he obeys the laws of nature because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been imposed upon him externally by any foreign will whatsoever, human or divine, collective or individual.”
ZC: How big was your meal?
MM: It was about two or three centimeters of skin and flesh underneath the skin. The experience I got from this performance was unique. It is interesting how the public cannot see everything that the performance consists of; there are always parts invisible for them. Ask yourself, “what is happening with the performer before they start to perform?” What is happening inside of them while performing? What comes after the performance? It is the path with many steps.
Three centimeters of skin
and flesh underneath the skin
For me, this was the most challenging performance I did, because I didn't know what will be after. I thought much about what could come out of this action, what are the possible consequences in the personal, private and the public space. I took a lot of preparation for this piece; I overthought all the possible outcomes that I could see in that time. For me, this performance was much more mental than physical training.
Eduardo Viveros de Castro explains that the possession of a similar soul implies the possession of similar concepts, which determine that all subjects see things in the same way. Individuals of the same species see each other (and each other only) as humans see themselves, that is, as beings endowed with a human figure and habits; seeing their physical and behavioral aspects in the form of human culture. What changes when passing from one species of subject to another is the “objective correlative,” the referent of these concepts: what jaguars see as “manioc beer” (the proper drink of people), humans see as “blood.” Any species of subject perceives itself and its world in the same way we perceive ourselves and our world. “Culture” is what one sees of oneself when one says “I.”
Some people were crying,
and some people were inspired
ZC: How did the audience react?
MM: In both performances, people were shocked. I did not aim to shock, but when the shock comes out of the audience, I presume that it is a valuable process. In such situations, people are questioning themselves and others around them. Why is something shocking for somebody and for somebody else it is not? So, it is not in the relation - what the poet wanted to say, it is different. What is the meaning that you are asking from yourself? In that way the audience was also reacting, some people were crying, and some people were inspired. Anyway, shock is an excellent trigger to understand the human nature and what is underneath the surface.
Shock is an excellent trigger
to understand the human nature
ZC: Did these acts of self-cannibalism somehow changed your relationship to your own body?
MM: This was the period when I was investigating the extreme body art practice. In such conditions I have developed my understanding of performance and how can my body be its medium.
Learn to recognize
the wolf inside yourself
When one older colleague saw that I am going to extreme body art practice, he told me, "You need to be careful what you are doing. Learn to recognize the wolf inside yourself; the beast is pushing you, and that is a great challenge". Of course, you need to be aware of your limits, and body art practice is investigating those boundaries. It is important to say that these performances were recognized as most extreme body art practice in Croatian performance art scene. Performance responses were burdensome, different opinions from positive to negative. Scientific research by Dr. Suzan Marjanic from the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore in Zagreb, Croatia supported the terminology of auto-cannibalism.
Body art practice has helped me to understand the meaning of the performance and its importance for the people who are dealing with this force. It is dangerous if we don't know how to control the uncontrollable.
It is dangerous if we don't know
how to control the uncontrollable
ZC: The drive of why you are doing what you are doing?
MM: Yes, it is essential to know why you are you doing what you are doing. For example, if I perform body art on myself, I am okay with it. I wouldn't do that on anybody else because that would terrorize them. If another person is willing to do that, we need to ask ourselves, “why is this person willing to do that?” It is a great responsibility, and we need to be careful not to harm each other.
(1) SELFEATER/ The thirst is a performance work by Marko Marković.
(2) SELFEATER/ Hunger is a performance work by Marko Marković.