Your illustrations of one of H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales, ”The ugly duckling”, have contributed to a renewed understanding of it: instead of the classic autobiographical interpretation of the misunderstood genius, who after many trials finds his rightful destiny, you have – both by virtue of your own artistic background and of course in the illustrations themselves – made the story into an archetypal tale that concerns us all. As a performance artist, you have spent a lifetime documenting truth in contexts that at first seem strange, bordering on the absurd, only to leave viewers with much more than an aesthetic experience over a shorter or longer period of time. The proper presentation of what we immediately perceive as unaesthetic or alien can, over time, contribute to existential insights. Your own art has documented this again and again. The Ugly Duckling, both as a fictional character and as an overall narrative, is itself an expression of a similar transformation and individual insight.
You yourself have explained that your art enabled you to break out of a shell – in other words: break out of the egg – and this happened in every respect to H.C. Andersen. He never concealed the fact that many of his artistic themes were drawn from his own experiences, which has led to the traditional understanding of this fairy tale as autobiographical as well. But your illustrations show that this is very simplistic. If “The Ugly Duckling” can in any way be called a “key fairy tale”, it only shows that in order to achieve his goal personally, artistically and socially, its author had to perform his own life, among other things, in the form of his “own life’s fairy tale”. He was only too aware of the cost of challenging the norms of his time, and indeed of challenging a posterity that has sneered at him and indulgently spread all too familiar anecdotes. Through your simple drawings, you have not only made H.C. Andersen’s, but all ugly ducklings’ quest for recognition, while illustrating the difficult insights that go with it.
Marina Abramović, Serbia
for illustrating and publishing the fairy tale ”The Ugly Duckling” 2017