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Bare necessities: would you brush up against naked performers to get inside Marina Abramovic’s 2020 London show?

Artist's famous nude performance—first done with Ulay—to be recreated in her retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts next year

Ulay and Marina Abramović’s Imponderabilia (1977) © Marina Abramović. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Marina Abramovic’s famed performance Imponderabilia is to be recreated at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (RA) next year. First performed in 1977 in Bologna, it originally involved Abramovic, naked, standing in a fairly narrow gallery entrance directly opposite her then partner, the German artist Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen). The performance was recreated at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2010.

Visitors had to decide whether to squeeze almost sideways past the two bodies, and if so whether to face the male or female figure (both males and females generally preferred to face the female performer). Alternatively, visitors could pass through another open entrance with easy access.

Marina Abramovic and Ulay discuss the performance Imponderabilia (1977) Courtesy of Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Abramovic, who split up from Ulay in 1988 and will turn 74 during the show, will be in London for the duration of the exhibition but will not personally recreate the performance. According to Tim Marlow, the RA’s artistic director, they will recruit a group of  “young people” who will take over one of the two entrances of the exhibition for the duration of the 10-week show. They will be trained by Abramovic on how to deal with the public brushing against their naked bodies. Queues may well build up to pass through Imponderabilia.

The idea of the recreation is partly to provide an opportunity to consider how the work of a performing artist can be continued after their death. Those waiting in line to pass through the narrow entrance would do well to consider Abramovic’s statement: “If there were no artists, there would be no museums, so we are living doors.”

• Marina Abramovic, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 26 September 2020-8 December 2020