The first shot is a close up of Abramović looking upward and holding a large onion. Her fingernails are painted bright red, just like her lips. Slowly she brings the onion closer to her mouth, taking a large bite from it and beginning to chew. Her voice-over keeps repeating the following as she devours the onion: ‘I’m tired of changing planes so often, waiting in the waiting rooms, bus stations, train stations, airports. I am tired of waiting for endless passport controls. Fast shopping in shopping malls. I am tired of more career decisions: museum and gallery openings, endless receptions, standing around with a glass of plain water, pretending that I am interested in conversation. I am tired of my migraine attacks. Lonely hotel room, room service, long distance telephone calls, bad TV movies. I am tired of always falling in love with the wrong man. I am tired of being ashamed of my nose being too big, of my ass being too large, ashamed about the war in Yugoslavia. I want to go away. Somewhere so far that I’m unreachable, by telephone or fax. I want to get old, really, really old, so that nothing matters any more. I want to understand and see clearly what is behind all of us. I want not to want anymore.’
As she is complaining, Abramović is noticeably agitated by eating the raw onion. Her eyes are tearing up, her saliva is dripping out of her mouth as her lipstick is rubbed off and bits of onion layers stick to her face. Her chewing is slowing down, but she continues to take ferocious bites from the onion while the voice-over continues. In certain respects, ‘The Onion’ shows familiarities with early performances like ‘Art must be Beautiful, Artists must be Beautiful’, in which Abramović is violently brushing her hair and face while reciting the title of the piece. As the early performances revolve around mental and physical limits of pain, ‘The Onion’ resumes Marina’s dedication to idea of the inseparability of body and mind by challenging apparent limitations of physical stamina. The video is also part of the 16-channel installation ‘Video Portrait Gallery’ (Abramović 1975-2002).