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Minimum Running Time of Six Hours — Marina Abramović Performance Art School in 2012

[“Best of Chicago Art Magazine” re-post. Originally appeared 4/12/10]

Minami Furukawa

Imponderabilia, Marina Abramovic

You can’t claim a title like the “Grandmother of Performance Art” without having a hold on the artform, and in turn, letting it completely have its hold on you as well.   Marina Abramovic is an icon, and rightly so—it seems wrong to define her artistic drive as dedication, but rather as a conceptually saturated lifestyle.  The 63-year old Serbian artist has been ruling the performance art scene with her duration-based work since the early seventies.  If you don’t know her by name, you’re probably familiar with her work; Imponderabilia (1977 and 2010) involved two nude performers facing each other in a doorway, forcing the public audience to squeeze between the two bodies to enter the gallery, The House with the Ocean View (2002) displayed the artist living in a suspended habitat for twelve days with the only exit composed of a ladder made of knives, and Rhythm 10, 5, and 2 from the early seventies experimented with the energy of extreme body pain.

Marina Abramovic Institute

Now with all this in mind, imagine having Miss Abramovic as your personal teacher and mentor.  In order to preserve the seemingly dying performance art scene, the veteran artist is doing just that.  The Marina Abramovic Institute, due to open in the fall of 2012 in Hudson, New York, will offer artist workshops, courses for the public, a library, a grants program, and housing for students in seeking to develop interest and quality in performance art.  Abramovic describes her intentions for the Institute “like the Andy Warhol factory without the drugs”.

The nonprofit “Institute” will contain the artist’s archives, and sponsor performance and film with a minimum of six hours in length, reflecting Abramovic’s own artistic style and interest in endurance art.  Abramovic believes that long-duration performance work fell out of the American interest in the 80’s when the market took over, associating performance to entertainment.  Because of this, she explains that events became shorter and shorter, eliminating variety and focus on this type of work in the U.S.  “Performance art is not entertaining at all,” she said to a New York writer for angelfloresjr.multiply.com, smiling at the misguided offers she receives to present her work at art parties and the like.

House With Ocean View, Marina Abramovic

In Abramovic’s efforts to preserve durational performance, the Institute seeks to invite international curators to show edgy, difficult work that may be forbidden in museums and cultural institutions in this country.  Because the 20,000 sq. foot Greek revival theater that was purchased to house the Institute is made of solid concrete, the use of dangerous and otherwise strange materials will be encouraged, inviting the sort of work that is more often found in European performance genre.  This type of venue encourages the hopes for the public eye to be exposed to an artform that has been waning for decades, thereby cultivating a lost appreciation for it.

Unfortunately due to Miss Abramovic’s busy schedule, she was unable for interview for this article.  Resources used to write this piece are listed below: