Marina Abramović the Serbian born conceptual artist reaches the half-way mark of her residency at the Serpentine Gallery today, at 6pm on Saturday 19 July. The artist now completes her 256th hour of performing with the public.
To mark the occasion, the Serpentine, in collaboration with The Space, will release a short series of brief diaries with some of the visitors giving a unique insight into one of the most talked about art events of the year. Since its opening in June, 64,277 people have visited the exhibition, with up to 160 people allowed in at any one time.
Each day, Marina Abramović opens the Gallery doors and greets every visitor as they enter. Following the simple instructions they are given before entering, visitors divest themselves of their mobile phones, watches and baggage and enter into a white gallery bare of anything aside from Marina Abramović herself and ten Gallery Assistants.
With the artist herself saying “I don’t know what to expect,” nobody knew quite what form the performance would take over the coming weeks and months. Some visitors come and go within 15 minutes but the majority stay for an average of two hours. Many visitors dedicate whole days to the experience whilst others make regular return visits. Participants document their feedback through words and pictures displayed on a dedicated Tumblr. Reactions range from feelings of bewilderment and cynicism to a sense of communion, calm, and elation.
One aspect of the show that has been widely remarked on is the rare opportunity afforded to do nothing and escape from a world mediated by electronic devices. “I stayed the whole eight hours and it only felt like three,” said one regular visitor to the exhibition, whilst another commented “It helped me slow down. I tend to move fast. I enjoyed sharing the experience with others”. Others said “There is something very humanising and safe about being in a silent group” and “Watching other people as living sculptures was very interesting”. Some responded less positively to the experience: “My vision of Hell” was one individual’s reaction whilst another asked “Why is there an unspoken understanding that silence is required for this exhibition?” Through a daily video diary co-broadcast on thespace.org, serpentinegalleries.org, illy.com, and immaterial.org, Marina Abramović has offered small insights into the developments of the show. In her first diary entry, Marina Abramović said “Everything came so spontaneously – our decision how to start, how to develop the piece”. In a later entry she said “You start seeing differences and start noticing how the energy is expanding or shrinking”. On Saturday, in addition to Marina Abramović’s regular daily diary, viewers of the Space will get the opportunity to gauge how the participants themselves have experienced the performance through filmed testimonials.
Photo © 2014 by Marco Anelli courtesy The Serpentine Gallery