Marina Abramović: 512 Hours
The Serpentine premiered a new durational performance by Marina Abramović.
‘I’d arrived, I confess, supposing that I would leave quickly, hooting with derision…It was a profoundly relaxing, reductive experience. Trance-like. In the middle of London on a weekday afternoon.’ –Chris Blackhurst, Independent
‘It’s hard to think of another artist who can draw monumental crowds with such an airy concept…she exudes a mesmerizing mix of hypnotic energy, reassuring warmth and sharp wit.’ –CNN
In summer 2014, in a unique work created for the Serpentine, the internationally acclaimed artist Marina Abramović performed in the Gallery for the duration of her exhibition: 10am to 6pm, 6 days a week, attracting a total of 129,916 visitors. Creating the simplest of environments in the Gallery spaces, Abramović’s only materials were herself, the audience and a selection of props. On arrival, visitors both literally and metaphorically left their baggage behind in order to enter the exhibition: bags, jackets, electronic equipment, watches and cameras were not permitted to accompany them. The public became the performing body, participating in the delivery of an unprecedented moment in the history of performance art.
As part of 512 Hours, Abramović recorded a daily diary.
“Friday 13 June. At the end of the day something happened so incredible that it opened my heart and made me cry, cry, cry. I was coming to the middle space and I was seeing people like some sort of strange magnetic force, they are coming to the centre of the room and they are filling this podium and there was no space anymore. They are turning and making a circle around and around and around and at one point all of the people came in all spaces to the centre and they closed their eyes with a smile in their face and just stood there. It was so overwhelming. It was so magical.”
512 Hours Tumblr
The public were invited to share their reactions to the experience by writing it on paper after the exhibition. These were then uploaded and shared on a dedicated Tumblr daily.
“A mindful experience. I would come every day if I could.”
“It made me feel very self-conscious, like what a painting must feel like in a gallery…or a toy waiting to be played with. Some object anyways. I was reminded of the quiet moments in church where everyone is trying to come together to do something great. It’s often fruitless but sometimes inspiring. The search, that is.”
A background to 512 Hours
Marina Abramović is a pioneer of performance as an art form; using her own body as subject and object, she has pushed the physical and mental limits of her being. This was the first major performance by Abramović since her monumental piece The Artist is Present, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2010, in which visitors were invited to sit in silence opposite the artist and gaze into her eyes for an unspecified amount of time. Abramović performed this work every day for three months.
The pared-down nature of this exhibition corresponds to Abramović’s interest in the historically well established relationship between art and ‘nothingness’; visual artists including Robert Barry, John Cage, Mary Ellen Carroll, Robert Irwin, Yves Klein, Gustav Metzger and Yoko Ono (to name only a very few) have all explored the notion of material absence within their practice. The idea of emptiness – of minimalism, reduction and simplicity – plays an intrinsic role in Abramović ’s own work, and has increasingly led to ‘more and more of less and less’, a longstanding aim that she recorded in her Artist’s Life Manifesto of 2009. It was this journey towards immateriality that led her to this unique moment in her work, where she committed to an unscripted and improvised performance in the gallery space.
In the early 1970s, as a young artist in Belgrade, Abramović began exploring the relationship between artist and audience. Since 1978, she has conducted a series of workshops with art students, using a series of simple exercises to increase physical and mental awareness. Over the course of her career, Abramović has continued to develop these workshops, expanding their scope to reach a general public, through the Marina Abramović Institute.
As part of her time with the Serpentine, Marina Abramović curated three cinema events:
Stillness, which featured City of Angels (1983, Marina Abramović and Ulay); Golden Mask (2009) and Hero (2001)
Nothing, which featured a screening of the 1973 avant-garde cult film The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky, as well as Golden Mask (2009) by Marina Abramović.
Movement, which featured a screening of the 2007 documentary Seven Easy Pieces by Babette Mangolte, about Marina Abramović’s ground-breaking work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2005.
Whilst the Serpentine Gallery hosted Marina Abramović’s 512 Hours, Ed Atkins had a concurrent solo show at the Serpentine North Gallery, bringing together two extraordinary artists from different generations who focus on performance, the body and language.