The ‘Grandmother’ of Performance on the Internet / Hyperallergic

Marina Abramović with the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Marina Abramović with the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (image via Wikimedia Commons)

CHICAGO — “You are the future, and you get love by video,” chants artist Jillian Mayer in ”I Am Your Grandma,” a simple, catchy, one-minute video in which the artist ponders the idea that she will be a grandmother and her grandkids will find this video on YouTube. This is a fleeting thought that, when made into a super-sharable video, actually takes just one minute to pose relevant questions about the permanency of the stuff we choose to post online.

Mayer’s video (above) operates in the vein of performance on the internet, which I define as a hybrid between performance art and internet art that takes the form of either viral YouTube videos or memes. In the process, it also engages with Marina Abramović’s statement that she is the “grandmother of performance art.” Abramović’s work has now become de facto meme-ed through her 2010 performance “The Artist is Present” — consider her suspiciously “chance” encounter with past collaborator and lover, Ulay, which appeared quite fairytale-esque, and the spin-off ”Marina Abramovic Made Me Cry“ blog — and in fact she may be not the grandmother of performance art, but rather the ‘grandmother’ of performance art on the internet. A little meme goes a long way.

But first, what is a grandmother? According to, a grandmother is “a mother of one’s father or mother,” a “female ancestor” when plural or, a “familiar term of address for an old woman” when capitalized. In terms of artist communities as family in a similar way to queer culture definitions of family or “gamily,” family is defined through leaving biological ties behind, and establishing one’s own family based on cultural necessity and tight bonds of friendship rather than heteronormative nuclear family structures based purely on blood relations and lineage.

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