The cleaner and the choir


Marina Abramovic is like a rock star; that she has been fictionalized in an episode of Sex and the city says something(I’m just not sure what exactly). Even people who are not into art know her name and are curious about her work.

Her thing, if we call it that, is energy. More then once I’ve heard the expression “energy dialogue” used by her when she refers to her art. One thing about it that appeals to me is the humanity of it and how she is really interested in people.

I will be honest and say that with both of her performances that I have partaken in, watching other participants have been part of the experience for me. She brings out a diverse crowd and people are very emotional and engaged in it.

The first one was in London, at the Serpentine Gallery, which she didn’t leave for three months (correction; 64 days The piece was called “512 hours”). All day, every day, there was a performance going on inside. We had to stand in line for maybe half an hour that time, but the sun was shining(it was August) so no worries. We were there when it opened and I think it was a weekday so maybe the line wasn’t that long. Going to London at that particular time had in part to do with Abramovic; I’d heard so much about her art and was curious. Admittedly you don’t have to twist my arm to make me visit London but I do like to make the most of my visits.

Inside we were asked to leave bags,phones and watches in a guarded closet. We were told to stay quiet and when we entered we saw different rooms. There was as large room where people were standing or sitting. Abramovic was walking around guiding people(as did a few volunteers) as to where they should position themselves. It was very clear that people acted and hoped that she would notice them. She has charisma in spades.

In another room there was rows of desks and at each one was a pile of rice and one of lentils. The task was to count them. I know that she has done this piece before.

The one that was most emotional for me was the third one where I was blindfolded and basically pushed out onto the floor to find my way back. I was totally disoriented and as someone who prefers to have a large amount of control, terrifying. I could still see that it was a controlled exercise where I could challenge myself. The volunteers wouldn’t let anything truly bad happen.


The piece that I went to in Stockholm was different. The venue, a former church located next to the Modern Museum that is hosting an exhibition of her work, is now mostly used by choirs to stage concerts. This has been incorporated in the the piece; different choirs sing  from two in the afternoon to ten at night. You must leave phone,bag,watch and outerwear with staff outside. I guess that is standard with her works.

When you enter a volunteer will guide you to a chair or a place on the floor where you can stand or lie. You are encouraged to close your eyes and just be. Obviously you can move around after a while but really it’s almost like meditation. Inside was very calm and time flies, it really does. I kind of gave up because of hunger. We had underestimated the pull of Abramovic and had to stand in line,in the freezing cold, for almost 4 hours. I think that is part of the art work to be honest, at least it made waiting bearable thinking so. I don’t know if she was there, I think she has been at times during the week. I donut really care at this point, that’s not why  I went.

Both these performances have been recorded and then they become art in themselves or maybe just documentation of what happened. So there might just be footage of me snapping my fingers and kind of singing along with the choir shown at a museum at some point.

It was worth the wait I think. I’m fascinated by the effect it has on people first of all, but also the effect it had on me. Calm but energized I would say. Good art will do that to me( I do try to keep up with the mindfulness app but looking at Cy Twobly’s paintings in art books works better).

I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes and search online about her work. It is very relevant and give you a lot to think about; about art, about trust and about energy.

Her biography is on my wishlist so I’ll get back to you on that.



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