For one week, the Serpentine Galleries hosted Marina Abramović: The Life on the site of her acclaimed 2014 durational performance, 512 Hours. Visitors simultaneously experienced an intimate, digital encounter with the artist in this first, large-scale performance exhibited using Mixed Reality anywhere in the world.
The Life is a performance piece, lasting 19 minutes, that builds on the artist’s long-standing fascination with the notion of material absence. The use of Mixed Reality allows Abramović to further explore how to use her own body as subject and object, mapping new territory at the intersection of technology and performance. The Life is produced by Tin Drum, a US/UK studio that works exclusively in Mixed Reality.
Abramović’s use of this new, evolving technology reflects her engagement in the broader social and historical constructs of our times. As a collaborator throughout the creative process, Tin Drum has focused on representing the authenticity of the Abramović’s vision, creating a recurring performance that only this Mixed Reality technology can provide. “The fact that the project can be repeated anywhere in the world while I am not there is mind-blowing. I can be present in any spot on the planet,” says Abramović.
The collaboration with Tin Drum brings Abramović’s work to a wider audience. She says: “This is the first time an artist has used this technology to create a performance, but this experiment is just the beginning. I hope that many other artists will follow me and continue to pioneer Mixed Reality as an art form.”
To experience the performance, audience members were provided with Magic Leap One lightweight wearable spatial computing devices, before entering the main gallery space. Unlike Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality allowed the gallery and other visitors to be completely visible as part of the experience. A roped, five-metre circle was at the centre of the gallery where the digital representation of Abramović was visible through the Magic Leap One device. Visitors were free to explore the movements of the artist as if she were actually in the room.
Describing the experience, Abramović said: “When I put the glasses on for the first time, it was a very shocking experience - the feeling that I was there and not there at the same time.”
To create The Life, Abramović went through the entire performance in an extensive volumetric capture process – an authentic, moving, photographic representation of the human form – which is only possible in a few studios around the world (in this case, 4D Views in France).