Marina was born in Belgrade, Yugosalvia on November 30, 1946 to parents who held prominent positions in the Communist government. Her father was in the Marshal’s elite guard and her mother was an art historian who oversaw historic monuments. Her father left the family, so her mother took strict control of marina and her brother. Her mother was difficult and sometimes violent, yet she supported her daughter’s interest in art. Abramovic studied painting at first, but began performance art later. She called herself as the, “grandmother of performance art”. In her early work, she often compromised her body for the sake of her art. For example, she invited people to threaten her body with a variety of objects, including a loaded gun in Rhythm 0.
In another work, she cut her stomach with a razor blade into the shape of a star and reaching a state of hypothermia on a block of ice in her piece Thomas Lips.
She has suggested that the inspiration for such work came from both her experience of growing up under Communist dictatorship and the restrictive implementations set by her mother. She says: “All my work in Yugoslavia was very much about rebellion, not against just the family structure but the social structure and the structure of the art system there… My whole energy came from trying to overcome these kinds of limits.”
Her works have often involved pain and endurance. In Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful, she aggressively combs and brushes her long hair, teasing it up, while repeating ‘art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful’. Her voice and expression betray her pain. It has been seen as exemplifying a feminist critique of expectations on women to be beautiful, and yet it is compelling viewing precisely because the artist is so beautiful. In 1999 Abramovic said, “At that time, I thought that art should be disturbing rather than beautiful. But at my age now, I have started thinking that beauty is not so bad.”