‘I can succeed or I can fail. Let’s see what happens’ says Marina Abramović in the promotional video for her five hundred and twelve hour long, grueling residency at the Serpentine Galleries in London. Starting from June 11th until August 25th, the grand dame of performance art will be present at the art institute, interacting with the public through the framework of “nothingness.”
If there is a superstardom status in the genre of performance art, undoubtedly Marina Abramović is the ultimate bearer of the title, proven by her decades of ambitious devotion to the medium, starting her career in the art spaces of Belgrade, and going on to deliver groundbreaking performances all over Europe before her infamous MoMA retrospective in 2010. Aside from her now legendary experiments on the body and its physical limits, Abramović has also been a dedicated supporter of performance art’s interaction with the masses, working closely with young artists and scholars on the topic. Playing a major role in the increasing recognition of the medium in recent years, Abramović is currently working on an institution in Hudson, New York, intended for the promotion and fostering of performance art through classes, lectures and residencies.
Similar to her MoMA piece in terms of her presence in the center of the space, directly interacting with the audience, the Serbian artist’s current work aims to go further in the search of meaning in the act of minimalism. Stripping her own persona from any outer layer of performative context, the artist investigates the most simplistic modes of expression. Throughout her five hundred and twelve hour long performance, the artist is using no other material than her own body and a few other props that will accompany her to communicate with her audience. Everyday except Mondays from 10 am till 6 pm, the visitors will be invited to her company, and will be able to stay with Abramović as long as they desire. The participation of the public into Marina’s act will orchestrate a collaboration, building a moment in performance art as well as simply just another day in the course of each person’s life. This contradiction between the simplicity of real life and the spectacle aspect of performance will result in an experiment involving the artist and her participators. Abramovic moves visitors arounds, whispers into their ears, and gives them commands, enabling them to enact their own performance in relation to her own.
Engagement with her audience while experimenting with the deliverance of mutual trust has always been an important element in Abramović’s practice, proven by some legendary durational pieces such as Rhythm 0, in which the artist allowed her audience to use different objects on her, reaching to a point that risks her life, or Imponderabilia, in which Abramović and her collaborator at the time Ulay stood naked in the doorway to a room, blocking the entrance and challenging people to pass through their naked bodies.
Leaving four decades behind in her career, Abramovic delves to the roots of human emotions, the space of interaction and the making of meaning from simple encounters, while eliminating the excess to see beyond the physical bounds of singular performance Her dependance on her audience is becoming less provocative and risky compared to her previous early works, giving the signals of a more mature and subtle tone in expression, while the volume of her audience is growing year by year, proven by the ever increasing length of the lines outside the Serpentine Galleries in Hyde Park.
Marina Abramović: 512 Hours is on view at Serpentine Galleries through August 25, 2014.
— O.C. Yerebakan
Serpentine Galleries [Exhibition Page]