THE ARTIST IS PRESENT
Rhythm 0/ Renaissance Arcade, Adelaide 2012
Renaissance Arcade is a grimy food court off of Pulteney Street in Adelaide’s CBD. A block of pricey apartments have balconies overlooking the food court. The balconies are only, say, 10 meters above us. There is little to separate their private from our public as we share the same feed time.
This is the first I’ve heard of Marina Abramović. A very brief encounter; a fleeting mention of Rhythm 0 in conversation between friends across the table.
I am embarrassed that I don't know who she is, but excited by the threat of her murder.
My friends probably don’t remember this conversation taking place, though for me it is a vivid and important recollection of experiencing Marina’s work for the first time as many do—through rumour.
Since, I have come to know Marina’s work intimately yet only in a gallery context once.
From my first encounter as rumour, I would then find Marina’s work archived online. Online, I might experience Rhythm 0 through Google’s ‘Related Images’ search tool; a grid formation of images that document Rhythm 0 are interwoven with visually similar ones often with no relation at all to the work—Marina as a small child poses in Belgrade, age 5 | Black and White Instagram filter of Marina Abramović and Kim Kardashian posing together—though amongst this grid I spy Carolee Schneemann performing Interior Scroll. This then shifts my reading of Rhythm 0 into a shared context alongside Interior Scroll.
Google curates a gallery of images for me, like an editor might for a book, or a curator in a gallery. I scroll down a sprawling space of time as I am lead from Rhythm 0 into glamour shots of Marina some years later.
Maybe you’ve most recently encountered Marina in a meme of her bracing her head and neck, after a long day performing The Artist Is Present, recontextualised to hypothetically advertise pain relief?
How do these disjointed forms of experiencing work inform us now as we take in art online perhaps more than in a gallery? Is it the same as how one might have encountered work before the internet?
Now, Marina is a celebrity figure of performance practice. Her fame and success is exceptional though still her practice embodies many heightened difficulties we might find in the broader circulation and documentation of performance practice and disciplines beyond.
Having grown up in Adelaide, most of my experience of interstate and international work has been, at least initially, through its online presence: an image of a sculpture; a short excerpt of a video work; documentation of a performance; the artist’s social media presence and extensive appearances in YouTube archived artist talks and panel discussions; and often accompanying texts that makes sense of, or further obscure, the work.
Often, I find myself feeling as though I have experienced a work in its totality—perhaps because of how many ways we might have access to the artwork and the artist’s life—online.
I’m reminded of Walter Benjamin’s discussion of film and its distribution holding revolutionary potential (Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Though the reproduction and mass circulation of Marina’s work has changed it. I’m reminded too of John Berger, in his very recent passing, who further unfolds the complications that occur when art leaves its initial intended context and its reproduction circulates widely (Ways Of Seeing). Both a blessing and a curse?
As I procrastinate writing this, I refresh Facebook. Man Sits Down Across From Woman He Hadn’t Seen in 22 Years, Breaks Down When They Make Eye Contact . 2 likes.
THE ABRAMOVIĆ METHOD
Counting the Rice/ Museum of New Art, Hobart 2015
During Marina’s recent retrospective at Mona, my mum participated in Counting the Rice, which both my sister and I opted out of before we were even in.
From what I understand, the participants sort and count grains of rice from lentils for as long as possible. As we wait for her outside of the exhibition, we wonder how long possible is?
The gallery is closing soon, so I ask the bartender at the underground gallery bar if the Abramović method ever ends? I feel Marina would want her participants to not only switch off their phones and leave their possessions at the door, but to outstretch the confines of the gallery, to transcend normative space and time.
He assures us that the work will come to an end by the time the gallery closes. The experience does not extend into the night as other less committed gallery visitors board the last Mona MR-1 camouflaged catamaran back into Hobart. It will soon be interrupted by the voice of the polite but stern young gallery assistant who, each day for the duration of the exhibition, lets everyone know the gallery, and thus the artwork, is closing and the sorting is over, non negotiable.