The performance artist has taken over the space with the demand that no gadgets or devices pass through the doors.
Performance art is an art enjoyed by some, understood by less but tends to impress many with bizarre acts. Performers often put themselves in situations of great stress, exposure and even physical pain for the sake of their art. None are so prolific as Serbian artist Marina Abramovic. For her latest project, dubbed “512 Hours,” she has taken over the Serpentine Gallery in London with only two caveats: visitors do exactly as she demands and there is to be no technology in the gallery.
This is a world where many are essentially tied to their phones, tweeting and texting, updating statuses to keep friends in the know. Since this particular performance is all about audience participation, Abramovic wants them to be totally immersed in the experience, absolutely no distractions from the outside world. Because of this, there will be no pictures until the official videographers release the tapes.
The way the installation works is that people wait in line to get into the gallery. Only 160 people are allowed in at a given time. After removing all of their technology and putting it into a locker, they are led by either Abramovic or an assistant to a set location and given an action, such as staring at a wall, sitting while wrapped in blankets or walking backwards throughout the museum. Abramovic may then come around and move people or give instructions to perform other tasks. The people are free to leave whenever they want, or stay all day if they want to.
This “grandmother of performance art”, as she is often affectionately referred to, has been testing the relationship between artist and audience since the 1970s. She has put herself in mental, emotional and physical danger in order to create bigger and more experimental art. Her prior project, “The Artist Is Present”, allowed visitors in the Museum of Modern Art in New York to sit face-to-face with her in a staring contest, leading the participants to have emotional reactions while she stood silent and steadfast. For this current piece, she will remain at the gallery until August 25, 2014, steadily moving people around in an intricate ballet only she can see.
Image: Manfred Werner / Tsui