A MAI Chronicle

by "Counting the Rice" Participant Giulia Inès Simonetti

Introduction by Siena Oristaglio
Photograph by Youssef Tayamoun
Since 1979, Marina Abramovic has hosted workshops called Cleaning the House with students from around the world. Designed to prepare the artist for the creative act, the workshop consists of several exercises that test the participant’s endurance, concentration, mental and physical limits, perception, self-control, and will power. Some of these exercises provide the framework for the Abramovic Method, designed to help the public develop skills for observing long durational performances. Counting the Rice is one such exercise. Its instructions are as follows:

Separate the rice from the lentils.
Keep tally of each on a piece of paper.
Duration: Six hours.

In early 2014, this Counting the Rice exercise was implemented as a public installation with tables designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The installation traveled to Milan, Italy, where it was hosted in partnership with Moroso. It was then installed for ten days at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève in Geneva, Switzerland. At MAI live events, members of the public are encouraged to document and share their experiences with one another. IMMATERIAL will regularly publish "MAI chronicles" written by audience members and participants. Below is a chronicle from Giulia Inès Simonetti, who took part in the Counting the Rice installation in Milan. To submit a MAI chronicle, click here.

Milan, Italy, April 23rd, 2014

Translated from Italian:

Put yourself in a condition of forced separation. A necessary separation from our everyday life. The important thing is not counting the seeds but to understand that, during the counting, the action is superfluous. The breath beats time.

A very simple, ironic and useless action for our western contemporary society. An action that is repeated in time becomes automatic. But not immediate. You need a concentration, in your body and your mind, that [does] not permit [you] to dissociate from yourself.

A deep and real unconscious consciousness. You do not think about yourself as the centre of the world. And at the same time the world fails. The confusing context, the thoughts and problems disappear. Around that prepared place there is a neutral / clear zero-zone, in which you are not attacked by anxiety and worries of everyday life.

As a viewer, you can immediately see a different strength. Libeskind’s table has been designed as an empty/neutral object, with sleeping forces that are activated by the simple different presence of the performers. The spirit is calm when you look at them. 



Mettersi nelle condizioni di una separazione forzata. Una separazione necessaria dal nostro quotidiano. L’importante non è il compito di contare i semi in sé. Ma rendersi conto che l’operazione di conteggio è superflua. Il respiro scandisce il tempo.

Un’operazione semplicissima, ironica e inutile per la nostra società occidentale contemporanea, che se ripetuta a lungo diventa un’azione automatica. Automatica ma non immediata, perché necessita concentrazione fisica e mentale, e non permette di pensare a se stessi direttamente. Ma allo stesso tempo si è più che mai presenti. Una coscienza inconsapevole, viva e reale. Non pensare a se stessi come centro del mondo. E il mondo stesso si attutisce. Il contesto frastornante che ci circonda, i pensieri martellanti e i problemi spariscono. Come se intorno a quel luogo preparato si creasse una zona neutra / azzerata / pulita, in cui non si è intaccati dalle preoccupazioni e dalle ansie del quotidiano.

Da spettatore si avverte immediatamente lo scarto di energia. Il tavolo disegnato da Libeskind come oggetto vuoto/neutro, ha una forza latente che viene attivata dalla semplice presenza differente dei performer. Osservarli calma lo spirito.

To play Pippin Barr's "Counting the Rice" game, click here.

For information on upcoming MAI events, click here.