Lou Reed, Lady Gaga, Isabella Rossellini were among the 700’000 visitors that came to sit down across her at the MoMA in 2010. For 3 months, Marina Abramovic definitely imposed performance as a type of art. Her works of art are currently exhibited at the Bärtschi art gallery in a series called Landscapes.
Tell me Marina Abramovic, does art free us from the fear of death?
I am going to start with a beautiful Sufis sentence: “life is a dream and death is waking up” which I think a lot about. But you know, I would be incredibly arrogant and selfish if I could say to myself that I have solved the mystery of life and death and reached art immortality. This is not up to me to say, it is up to the audience and the people who really experienced my work. I cannot say that but I can share with you what I am trying to do.
For me, it was very important to make performance art mainstream. Video and photography became mainstream art but the performance was always considered as entertainment. We would receive email requests to do a performance during a museum event or an art gallery opening in front of people holding a glass of wine, barely paying attention. I have spent 40 years of my life figuring out and creating a situation where performance is understood as an immaterial form of art where you really need to be there in order to experience it because unlike a painting hung on a wall, experiencing a performance is invisible, you need to feel it. And that was very difficult, especially as there were so many bad performances, including some of my own which made people lose interest. A good performance is when you establish a dialogue between the audience and the performer and that can be a life-changing experience.
By doing so, I have discovered a few things: first of all the long duration of a work of art is essential because our life is so short and we need the artist to get to the state of mind in order to transmit that state of mind to the public. And that requires time; the public needs time to get to that kind of vibration with the artist. Secondly, I’ve discovered that the public needs to be considered as an individual rather than a group, focusing on a one-to-one experience because the public is tired of being told what to do, how to feel, and where to look. In order to change, we cannot rely on someone else’s experience, we need our own journey, we need to make that trip and that is the idea behind my Institute: creating a platform where the general public, not the jet-set or the art people in specific, but any kind of people from any religious beliefs, and social background, sign a 6-hour contract with me, giving time to themselves and get experience. Then it is up to that person to figure out whether she/he can apply it to his/her own life, whether will it change her/him, and how will it affect her/his beliefs.
The Institute is not about my work, it is a much bigger picture. I like to call it a cultural spa where art, technology, science, and spirituality come together, a new idea of the Bauhaus but in the 21st century. In our Western society, we do not live with the idea of dying. But if you do, if you think that every day may be the last day, you simply cut the bullshit and go for it. You do not lose time on unimportant things and you focus. And for me, an artist has to be a servant to society, he has to be the oxygen by asking the right questions. Not necessarily always giving answers or changing someone’s life but really focusing on the important things.
I want to show people, by telling them that for every dollar I receive, they will get a hug, how important this is to me: it’s a matter of life and death to me. It’s so much easier to criticize how life can go wrong than to actually try to help humanity on a personal level. Maybe I am wrong, maybe this whole project is just a utopia but I will never know if I don’t try.
Photography ©ArtistPortraitwithACandle(A)– MarinaAbramović- GalerieBärtschi