Object Image

The Tree is a sound work that artificially amplifies a recording of birdsong through speakers located in an actual tree. It was first presented outside the SKC Cultural Centre in Belgrade, previously a social club for the secret police, which Abramovic and her fellow students repurposed after calling for official acknowledgment of their artistic activities, demanding that: “…cultural and creative facilities are open to all”. Although Josip ‘Tito’ Broz, leader of the Yugoslav Communists, responded and relented to the student protests of 1968, The Tree may also be seen as a critical reflection on his hectoring public pronouncements, with the recording’s insistent, distorted repetition perhaps showing Abramovic’s disillusionment with her parents’ close ties with the government. As the artist herself has said: ”I think it comes from my childhood. My mother always used to give me sets of instructions for what I should achieve every day – to learn a certain number of French words, for example, or what I should eat, what kind of books I should read, what time I was supposed to be home. That time of my life was based in a frame of discipline.” In reference to both White Space and The Tree, curator Germano Celant noted that, “At the time they certainly might have been considered as being more of a conceptual nature … [but] the early works seem to express the existential separation of someone confined or blockaded in a circumscribed, closed country.”

This new configuration of the work, its second iteration since 1971, utilises hidden speakers in the vicinity of a tree, rather than the more literal first iteration of a tape recorder balanced in the branches.

Sound Environment, © Marina Abramović, Courtesy Lisson Gallery; Photo: © Nick Turpin


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