Oral Presentation

SURFACES AND STRATEGIES – MODULE ASSIGNMENT

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Dayana Marconi, “I can hear you now, Oral Presentation of my current practice”. Assignment created for Module 3 of the MA Photography at Falmouth University ©Dayana Marconi 2017. Copyright for this video belongs solely to Dayana Marconi.

Facial expressions and emotions

SURFACES AND STRATEGIES – PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH

Traditionally, facial expressions have always been conceived as connected with emotions, but different experts in History of Psychology debated the idea that, in some cases, they might only appear as related to them.

Charles Dawin has been the first one to suggest that those expressions were universal as the emotions behind them, claiming that they were “biologically innate and evolutionarily adaptive” (Darwin, 1872). His idea, then, was not simply that those manifestations are already present in all humans and animals, but that they evolve in time due to their need to adapt themselves to the environment they live in, as a response to Evolution.

Since his research has been then considered as inconclusive thanks to those further researches conducted in the world of Psychology, a second theory arouse: the one that linked those expressions to different cultures. However, Darwin’s theory found its “evolution” in the work done by Doctors Tomkins and McCarter, who demonstrated that “facial expressions were reliably associated with certain emotional states” (Tomkins & McCarter, 1964), and Dr. Paul Ekman., who made a distinction among main facial expressions and developed, subsequently, the theory related to subtle expressions, those non-obvious micro-expressions uneasy to detect since their duration is usually brief. Their work generated over 75 studies managed by different psychologists in time and analysing the topic from different angles and with different aims.

David Matsumoto 2008_facial expressions

David Matsumoto, The Seven Basic Emotions and their Universal Expressions, explicative image, 2008, San Francisco State University, USA. ©David Matsumoto, 2008.

Ekman and Keltner, also stated that personalities and psychopathologies do not affect those expressions even if, in some cases, they might result as amplified or diminished. They provided as example the case of some disorders, like schizophrenia, in which some emotions have a prominent role and might cause a certain level of misconception in the interpretation of their emotive causes.

Doctor Shimamura, in 2015 highlighted the importance of the role of the observer in the interpretation of those expressions, discussing how we “frame” them, declaring that, of course, “a smile may be viewed differently depending on the situation, what happened just prior, or the disposition of the person transmitting or receiving the expression” (Shimamura, 2015). He provided visual examples alongside his theory and one of those images was the drawing created by the psychologist Roger Shepard for his “Mind Sights: Original Visual Illusions, Ambiguities, and other Anomalies” in which there are two identical running monsters following each other. Thanks to an optical illusion, named “Ponzo illusion” that creates a sense of depth in the context around those figures, the following one seem bigger and the most provided interpretation has always been that the smaller one seems scared while the second monster seems angry.

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Roger Shepard, Terror Subterra, drawing, 1990, New York, USA. © Roger Shepard, 1990.

All these perspectives might fit into my project since, while we commonly read emotions displayed into a photograph in a similar way, being my images open to personal interpretation and to internalisation, their reading might change depending on those eyes observing them.

Something interesting has been written by Roland Barthes in his “Mourning Diary”, created after his mother death: “Each of us has his own rhythm is suffering” (Barthes, 1978). Then what if the same person would observe one of my photographs during a moment of happiness and then during a moment of sadness? Would his personal interpretation be the same? Would his emotional state influence his ability to judge what he is looking at?

I can guess that the provided  interpretation on an intellectual level would remain the same, or at least similar, but on an inner level, grounding a response on an emotional level, things could drastically change. We tend to mirror ourselves into the outside world and the same happens when we face a photographic image. We often use our personal and cultural background alongside what we feel in that specific moment of our lives to understand the contents of a photograph, something similar to what we do when we misinterpret a sentence said by someone in a moment in which we are upset: likely, we would never provide the same interpretation to those words in a more serene one. Ansel Adams once said “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution” (Adams in Scala, 2012), relating, in my case, not only the role of the viewers with the one of the sitter, but even to my interpretation. Those emotional process I depict have an impact not only on a potential audience, but also on my inner-self while shooting. I once said that I suffer and I feel relieved with my sitters and for my sitters and this is still true and, at the same time, I read their expression, I have a personal idea of what they might feel through observation, like any other viewer.

 

References:

Adams Ansel, quoted in About Photography, Andrea A. L. Scala, 2012, Lulu Press, North Carolina, USA, pp.7.

Barthes Roland, Mourning Diary, 1978, re-published in 2010 by Hill and Wang, NY, USA, pp.162.

Darwin, Charles, The expression of emotion in man and animals, 1872, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Darwin, Charles, The expression of the emotions in man and animals, 1872, John Murray, 1st edition, available on Darwin Online website http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=F1142&viewtype=text

Ekman Paul, Keltner Dacher, Facial Expression of Emotions, in M. Lewis and J. Haviland-Jones (eds) Handbook of Emotions, Second Edition, Chapter 15, 2000, Guildford Publications, Inc., NY, USA, pp.236-249 https://www.paulekman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Facial-Expression-Of-Emotion1.pdf

Ekman Paul, Paul Ekman Group’s official website http://www.paulekman.com/

Matsumoto David, Reading facial expressions of emotions, article released on the American Psychological Association’s official website, May 2011 issue http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

Nassif Claire, Shellow Greer, Facial Expressions and Emotions, article posted by Alexandra Murphy on Developmental Psychology at Vanderbilt official website, May 2014 issue https://my.vanderbilt.edu/developmentalpsychologyblog/2014/05/facial-expressions-and-emotions/

Paul Ekman Group, Are There Universal Facial Expressions?, on Paul Ekman Group’s official website http://www.paulekman.com/universal-facial-expressions/

Shepard Roger N., Mind Sights: Original Visual Illusions, Ambiguities, and other Anomalies, 1990, WH Freeman and Company, NY, USA.

Shimamura Arthur P. Ph.D., How We Frame Emotions Through Facial Expressions, article released on Psychology Today website, April 2015 issue https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-brain-the-beholder/201504/how-we-frame-emotions-through-facial-expressions

Tomkins, S. S., McCarter, R., What and where are the primary affects? Some evidence for a theory. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1964, Springer Publishing Company, NY, USA, pp.119-158.

WIP: Takeouts

SURFACES AND STRATEGIES – CREATIVE TAKEOUTS

Due to the fact that into my Work-in-Progress Portfolio I decided to include those contacts which had a related confrontation sheet in order to alternate them and provide more “variety” in a work that is basically composed by a collection of people following the same process, I decided to not include these two images, since they did not have a confrontation equivalent.

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“I can hear you now – Process Analysis, Long-exposure Contact sheet 12 & 13, horizontal versions” ©Dayana Marconi 2017. Copyright for this photo belongs solely to Dayana Marconi. Images may not be downloaded without her permission.

I created these images at the end of the workshop at Costigliole’s Castle I already mentioned several times and since my believe is that all those individuals who put themselves into play to support me in this project, while supporting themselves, deserve my attention as photographer, I opted to include them as part of my Journal.

Compared to those contacts I included into my WIP, these sequences are much shorter, but what must be understood is that these two women were coming from an almost three-hour shooting related to emotions and so maybe they felt a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation and they had too much to express at once. And yet they volunteered.

Unconventional spaces

SURFACES AND STRATEGIES – UNCONVENTIONAL EXPOSITIONS

During week 6, we have been asked to reflect about alternative spaces that might be dedicated to Art exhibitions.

While each one of us presented solutions that have been used by different artists to display their works, we had the chance to listen to Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale talking about their “Caravan Gallery”, “a mobile exhibition space that engages with people and places ‘normal’ galleries might not easily reach” (Williams/Teasdale, 2017).

Looking back at that presentation and at the discussion engaged with the Artists themselves, I am now reflecting about what an unconventional solution to exhibit my work might be.

Costigliole’s Castle, the place near my hometown in which I had the chance to lecture about Photography and emotions in collaboration with the photographic group “Scatti d’Autore”, would be a dreamy place to exhibit my project. It’s a historical building full of beautiful rooms with showcases and panels, some of them suspended, that would be perfect to display my images and there are many tables to place computers to show those videos that are integral part of my practice. I would have the chance to recreate a path that the audience could easily follow and it would be even possible to place refreshments outside in the garden.

It would be simply perfect and I hope I will have the chance to organise an exhibition there, but could it be considered as unconventional? I doubt it.

A few moments ago, I was outside my apartment, alone in the dark, smoking a cigarette and trying to imagine how I would like my work to be experienced by viewers in an alternative way and suddenly an intuition enlightened my night. I often refer my work to Cinema and to its visual language, then why not considering an old small cinema to display my project once it will be finally concluded?

To link my practice to David Lynch’s work once again, I imagine a small place like Mulholland Drive’s Club Silencio, surreal, with a few seats and red velvet curtains, immerse into the silence.

David Lynch, Mulholland Drive, Club Silencio scene, 2001, Les Films Alain Sarde, Asymmetrical Productions, StudioCanal, The Picture Factory, USA/France. Video released on Youtube on November 2016.  ©David Lynch/Lynchnet.

I would like to introduce my project by projecting a surreal silent video, narrating those stories and feelings which are the main source of my work in a symbolic way, on an actress standing on the proscenium, in silence but responding with facial expressions to those images, performing those emotions she feels while perceiving those images on her skin. Then I imagine her slowly walking back, always maintaining a visual contact with viewers, until she disappears behind the curtains. Due to the lack of sound into that video, I would like to use music score technique during that moment to enhance the emotional impact that my work might have on the audience. Again, a collaboration among different forms of art would be engaged.

After this introductive moment, I would like to present my project assembled as a film, and all its parts could be separated by white titles on a black screen like in an old silent movie. I could create a selection of materials, mixing videos, like my scream score experiment, and sequences of photographs organised in a clear path easy to follow. Also in this part, score would be fundamental: a fusion of music, sounds, voices and noises could accompany what the audience is watching.

To create more interaction with viewers, I could provide them with sheets that they might use to detect those emotions portrayed by my confrontation sheets. A sort of quiet break in which they would have the possibility to actively participate. I could provide them with small flashlights, so to enable them to answer to those questions. Then single elements of my contact sheets might be displayed in a fast video-montage to recreate that sense of malaise and anxiety my sitters felt during the shooting phase and I could also include moments of absolute dark in which some collaborators might scream to generate a “full spectrum” situation, until I will create a sort of emotional climax for those participants.

At the end of this visual experiment, I would like to project a sequence of symbolic and calming black and white stills to symbolise the end of that path: it would also represent the sense of void and relief that the people I portray usually experience once the shooting phase is settled. Alongside the mentioned sheets people could be asked to compile, I might also provide them with small boxes containing each one an object: a piece of fake grass, flowers, something soft like cotton, so to provide that tactile experience I discussed while writing my CRJ article about those antiqued journals that will contain all words said by my subjects.

A small selection of printed images of my work, tactile books, postcards depicting my confrontation sheets (and containing information about project’s website) that the audience can take home with them as a souvenir might be exhibited into the hall at the end of the “show”, in this way I could observe how people will perceive those materials at the end of the experiment.

Of course, this is only an idea born late at night, but it could become a starting point to rethink the way I would like to exhibit my work in order to reinforce its potential.

 

References:

Lynch David, Mulholland Drive, 2001, produced by Les Films Alain Sarde, Asymmetrical Productions, StudioCanal, The Picture Factory, USA/France.

Scatti d’Autore, Photographic Group, Costigliole d’Asti, Italy. Official website http://www.scattidautoreat.it/

Williams Jan, Teasdale Chris, The Caravan Gallery, official website, About page http://thecaravangallery.photography/about/

Deconstructed realities: what’s in a contact sheet?

SURFACES ANS STRATEGIES – VISUAL EXPERIMENTS

Since into my Work in Progress Portfolio I could not exceed eighteen images, or equivalents, I did not have the chance to show more in details what my contact sheets contain. This is why I decided to deconstruct one of them here on my CRJ, in order to provide further visual details to analyse the work done so far.

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“I can hear you now – Process Analysis, Long-exposure Contact sheet 7, horizontal version” ©Dayana Marconi 2017. Copyright for this photo belongs solely to Dayana Marconi. Images may not be downloaded without her permission.

Into the following slideshow, I included each shot as a single image to allow viewers to better follow the emotional process while in progress in front of their eyes and, to better clarify where that series starts, I insert the vertically-oriented version of the “Process Analysis, Long-exposure Contact sheet 7” as first image.

This is a suggestion I recall from Module 1 Portfolio’s evaluation, even if, in that case, it was related to triptychs due to the fact that I started creating long-exposure images only during the second Module of this MA.

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“I can hear you now – Deconstructed process Analysis, Long-exposure Contact sheet 7, slideshow” ©Dayana Marconi 2017. Copyright for this photo belongs solely to Dayana Marconi. Images may not be downloaded without her permission.

This idea of extrapolating single components out of my contacts has been also suggested during the webinar related to the creation of a dummy publication and its subsequent review. Since my intention, as previously discussed into this Journal, is to create a future publication made of small books that will represent each step of a visual and emotional path, deconstructing this image might reveal as a suitable idea to create the layout of one of them. I am still interested in working with this technique, but maybe experimenting different visual solutions alongside these creations might enhance the visual impact my project will have on the audience, as suggested by my Tutor Stella Baraklianou.

“Deconstruct to recreate” might become a key concept in my future practice, in more than one sense, in more than one way.

The Documentary approach

SURFACES AND STRATEGIES – CREATIVE RESEARCH

This Module is coming to an end and it is time, I think, to start reflecting about the future and about how some ideas related to my project could evolve in time.

During Week 2, we had the chance, as previously discussed, to create a trailer to present our current practice to our Professor and Tutors and during that discussion that evolved from what we created, I had the chance to watch the 35mm short film created by David Ellison in 2015, titled “Herdwick Common”. This brief video project served as an introduction to the namesake book he created in collaboration with Adam Atkinson, who founded Cherchbi Company. I appreciated the documentary style of this work and made me reflect about the possibility to create something similar for my work.

Of course, due to the fact that the subject matter is completely different, and so they are backgrounds and aims of our two projects, a potential short documentary about my practice should have a completely different visual and conceptual style.

My aim has always been to include into my work some articles written by professionals working in different fields, such as Psychologists, Anthropologists, Historians, Neurologists, but working to create and manage my exhibition during these days I realized that not many people are interested (or have the patience) to read written information nowadays. I still think they might be crucial to provide different points of view about the discussed topic and my work, but I also believe that, alongside their distribution, even a different solution must be found in order to engage the attention of the wider audience possible. Then I wondered: what if they become part of a documentary?

Once more, collaborating with other artists to create this kind of project will be crucial and necessary, but this would not only improve the sense of a continuous cooperation among different creative minds and forms of Art, but it would also enhance the quality of the final product itself.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to watch again the documentary “Room 237”, created by Rodney Ascher, focused on those inner meanings and messages contained by the 1980 Stanley Kubrick’s movie “The Shining”. The first time I watched “The Shining” I was a teenager and I already had the possibility to read the original story into the book written by Stephen King. At the beginning I was surprised, almost shocked and upset, to see how one of my favourite Directors ever changed so drastically some important elements of a book written by one of my favourite Authors. I thought that the plot seemed cut with an axe. Maybe Jack Nicholson did it while shouting “Here’s Johnny”?

Stanley Kubrick, The Shining, “Here’s Johnny” Scene, uploaded on Youtube on November 2011. ©Stanley Kubrick, 1980.

I have to admit that for years, since then, I did not watch that film again because it made me feel uncomfortable, but then I decided to face it from a different angle, asking myself if Kubrick’s intention was really to narrate a story already written by someone else or to experiment a different route using that story almost as an “escamotage”. During that second vision, I have been fascinated by his visual solutions, by the constant sense of tension he was able to recreate, by the fact that even if many elements of the original story went missing, all important things were there. Of course, I had no elements enough to examine it more in depth and this is what “Room 237” helped me to do.

Rodney Ascher, Room 237, USA, 2012. Produced by IFC Films/IFC Midnight. Released on Youtube in 2015 by James Richardson for documentary purposes. ©Rodney Ascher, 2012.

Ascher did not simply analysed the film as a piece of Art, but he invited experts and Kubrick’s fans, like Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan e Jay Weidner and Buffy Visick, to provide their personal and professional interpretations of its contents, even analysing the whole body of work done by the Director. Theories vary from observations that connect this movie to the Native Americans’ genocide, to the theory that Kubrick insert elements to declare he took part into the fake moon landing of Apollo 11 as film Director, even linking this idea to the fact that NASA collaborated with him to create all special effects for his “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Each narrator, used visual and conceptual references included into “The Shining” to prove his/her theory and they used each one’s specific professional and personal backgrounds to discuss this work. Kubrick never declared anything about these presented ideas, but some collaborators decided to contradict them.

What matters in this work in relation with “I can hear you now” are not in the contents themselves, but the solutions Ascher used to discuss Kubrick’s work. My idea, currently just a desire, is to create a wider body of work, involving both moving and still images and experiments and, subsequently, to ask those professionals and to those artists who collaborated and, hopefully, will collaborate with me to discuss my project providing their perspective, interpreting what they see, analysing its aims and that subject matter which constitute the reason behind this work. I would be interested in hearing their opinions about those visual solutions that evolved, and will evolve, in time, even interpreting each other’s work engaging almost a constructive discussion about Art and how it could try to provide some help in analysing social and psychological problems.

This short film with a documentary style, would provide my project with a wider perspective and a stronger background due to the analysis made by experts in different sectors and maybe it will enhance the interest of the audience in my work and the discussed topic itself or, hopefully, encouraging that deeper sense of empathy among individuals I am desperately trying to stimulate.

I perfectly understand this is a very ambitious idea and that it will be difficult to realise, but it is something I want to consider since this project means a lot to me, not only on a professional level, but on a personal one as well.

Many things need to be planned before its production can start and at the moment I only have questions. How can I finance such a body of work? How to manage the time I have? How to empower my network (and, definitely, my networking skills)? Who will write the plot? Who will direct it? Who will be involved and where to find artists and professionals available to collaborate to such a demanding project?

I guess that time will speak for itself and that if I will try hard to focus more on solutions rather than on those evident problems already in front of my eyes, I will find a way to make this idea become real.

 

References:

Ascher Rodney, Room 237, 2012. Produced by IFC Films/IFC Midnight, USA.

Ellison David, Atkinson Adam, Herdwick Common, 2015, Cumbria, UK. Produced by Shuffle and released in 2015 on David Ellison’s official website http://www.davidellison.co.uk/portfolio/herdwick-common-video/

Ellison David, Atkinson Adam, Herdwick Common Book, 2015, Cherubi, UK.

King Stephen, The Shining, 1977, Doubleday, New York, USA.

Kubrick Stanley, The Shining, 1980. Written by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, produced by Stanley Kubrick, USA/UK.

Kubrick Stanley, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968. Written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Clarke, produced by Stanley Kubrick/MGM, USA/UK.

Marina Abramović exploring the limits of her being

SURFACES AND STRATEGIES – CREATIVE RESEARCH

During these weeks, my interest in the interaction of the audience with Art increased, due to the fact that I am organising a work-in-progress exhibition completely based on viewers’ participation.

Exploring the world of Performance Art, I found interesting information related to Marina Abramović’s “Generator-Fragile State”. Since I already discussed this project into a previous article on this CRJ, I am now focusing my attention on the other projects she created in the past, to better understand how, after this experience, my work could become more “performance-based”.

While I am exploring those limits imposed by Social Norms and those self-imposed ones related to the expression of our negative emotions and the reasons behind them, Abramović tend to explore the limits of her being, especially on a physical level.

This is what the Artist has done in all her projects titled “Rhythms”, each one classified by a different number. In her first 1973 performance, “Rhythm 10”, she explored the rituality of gestures. Using two recorders and twenty knives, she played a Russian game in which she rhythmically had to stab the space between the spread fingers of her hand open and placed on a table. Each time she injured herself she had to play the recording of the whole process, to take a new knife and to start again, following the rhythm of the previous experience, mixing past and present and mentally moving away from the act itself and from her pain thanks to a deep level of concentration.

Even more dangerous have been her following two artistic experiments that took place during the following year in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and in Naples, Italy “Rhythm 5” and “Rhythm 0”. In the first one she created a double star in wood that she set on fire and then she started cutting her hair and nails throwing them into the flames generating subsequent light explosions. After that, she jumped into the star itself but this experiment had to be stopped when she fainted because of a lack of oxygen and the organizers have been concerned about her safety. While in this performance she put herself in danger, during the second one the danger came from the audience itself. She placed on a table tools of pleasure and pain and she passively allow anyone to interact with her body in every way possible. Again, this experiment suddenly came to an end when some participants became openly violent, cutting her dress, her skin and even placing a loaded gun into her hands. Must be said that, when she “became conscious again” and she re-started to interact with the external world all attendees’ dare disappeared leaving space to a sense of awkward pervading the room. In both works, the acts of the public have been crucial somehow, in a positive or in a negative way and, in the second case, she eventually proved that negative behaviours could have been reinforced by her passiveness that created the wrong and disturbing perception of a woman, a human being, as an inanimate object.

Of course, with my project I don’t want to go that far, but I believe that her experiments might be used as interesting references in relation of human nature and of those lines that could, but should not, be crossed sometimes.

More connected to my work is “Lips of Thomas” (1975), in which Marina Abramović explored the physical limits of her body, while I am exploring the emotional ones. She started a series of actions that become more and more violent culminating into a climax that forced her viewers to take action and rescue her (again). The execution became interaction, a dialogue generated by the relationship between action and reaction. This is exactly what I am trying to do with my work: generating an emotional climax with my sitters (scream) I am forcing an emotional response in my audience (self-analysis and empathy).

Even more related to my practice is her 1976 “Freeing the Voice”, performed in Budapest.

Marina Abramović, Freeing the Voice, 1976, Budapest, Hungary. Video Released on Youtube on January 2011. © Marina Abramović, 1976.

In this case, she was reclined with her face visible to the audience and she started producing a continuous and unstressed sound that suddenly became stronger and stronger until she stopped, feeling voided. This is exactly what happens to my sitters during the portrait-phase: they slowly charge that scream inside them and they release it until nothing is left of what caused it. As the Artist stated after this experience “When you are screaming in this way, without interruption, first you recognize your own voice, but later, when you are pushing against your own limits, the voice turns into a sound object” (Abramović/LIMA, 1976). This is what I am asking to my sitters during the shooting phase: to visualise those emotions, and subsequently their scream, as an object they are forcing, pushing out from their chests and throats. I could observe that, using their ability of making them becoming physical with their minds, their experience results stronger and deeper. Another similarity, here, can be detected comparing the reaction of her audience and one of the main aims of my project: those people instinctively responded to her scream and their genuine response became the performance itself. This is what I hope for my project, to make viewers react to my images and to make them experience my work in a more active way rather than in a passive one, as simple voyeurs.

This last Abramović’s work, is deeply linked to the idea I originally had for a potential exhibition of my work. I have always intended to ask an actor or an actress to attend and to actively participate: while viewers are analysing my photographs, this performer could suddenly scream into the room in which my photographs are displayed. This to recreate, with an actual voice, the feelings and the images the audience is observing and to move something into their souls on a deeper level.

 

References:

Abramović Marina, Freeing the Voice, 1976, Budapest, Hungary. Article, quote and performance published on LIMA Organisation’s website http://www.li-ma.nl/site/catalogue/art/marina-abramovic/freeing-the-voice-compilation-version/729#

Abramović Marina, Lips of Thomas, 1975, Galerie Krinzinger, Innsbruck, Austria.

Abramović Marina, Rhythm 10, 1973, Edinburg Festival, Edinburg, Scotland.

Abramović Marina, Rhythm 5, 1974, Student Cultural Center, Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Abramović Marina, Rhythm 0, 1974, Studio Morra, Naples, Italy.

MAI, Marina Abramović Institute, Official website https://mai.art/about-mai/