MARINA ABRAMOVIC RETROSPECTIVE
A FORTY-YEAR LEGACY
Friday, March 13 - 2015
Terra Comunal presents a retrospective of Marina Abramovic's 40-year career spent exploring the possibilities of immaterial art, curated by Jochen Voltz. This part of the exhibition occupies approximately 800 square meters of SESC Pompeia's Living Area, and is wholly dedicated to revisiting the artist’s more significant performances from the early 1970’s to the present day.
The first quote by Abramovic on the exhibit’s wall text is: "I've always liked simplicity in terms of geometry, architecture, color, in all elements - and inside the performance itself. But beyond simplicity, my work demands effort and preparation". The duality between simplicity and effort is a thread running throughout the entire retrospective. While aesthetically and structurally very simple, the implication is that viewers must be fully present in order to connect with the artwork.
The journey through five designated areas featuring installations of some of Abramovic’s seminal works begins with The Artist is Present (2010), held at the MoMA in New York. It was by far her most famous and, according to the artist herself, one of the most difficult performances she has ever undertaken. During 736 hours, Abramovic sat in a chair, motionless, and gazed into the eyes of 1,675 people.
At the center of the room featuring documentation from The Artist is Present, there are replicas of the table and chairs used for the performance, and projections on two walls: one is a wide variety of portraits taken as visitors sat across from Abramovic during the performance; the other is an assemblage of photos of Abramovic's face at different points during the 736 hours. All portraits were taken by photographer Marco Anelli.
The next room is dedicated to House with an Ocean View (2002), a long-durational work that was presented at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. This performance was designed to expose the artist's transparency and vulnerability, augmenting the energy between performer and audience. In this piece, the artist lived in three suspended and interconnected small rooms built for the performance to keep her exposed to the public at all times. She remained there for 12 days without eating or speaking, only drinking water, bathing, and alternating between three body positions: sitting, standing, and lying down.
On display here are all the objects used in House with an Ocean View: almond oil, a bar of unscented soap, a metronome, 12 cotton towels, 12 pairs of cotton underwear, 12 cotton t-shirts, and seven cotton shirts, among others. There are also chairs with headphones where visitors can listen to Abramovic describe her experience of the performance in detail.
512 hours (2014), which took place at the Serpentine Gallery in London, is the last of the three main performance installations featured at Terra Comunal. During the eponymous duration of this piece, Abramovic interacted with the audience directly, sometimes holding their hand or whispering instructions in their ear. Abramovic invited people to leave their personal belongings and social habits at the door and just be there with her, exploring their own sense of time, space, and relation to others. Video journals recorded at the end of each day by Abramovic and collaborator Lynsey Peisinger illustrate the improvisational nature of 512 Hours, with the two artists sharing stories about the currents of energy running through the gallery and describing their various interactions with visitors. There are also interviews with participants available for viewing.
Moving on to the next area, Abramovic’s Transitory Objects are laid out for visitors to interact with, including Bed for Human Use, Time Energiser, Inner Sky, Shoes for Departure, and Chair for Departure, among others. These objects, made with crystals, magnets, and wood, are designed based on the raw materials’ inherent energetic properties.
The rest of the retrospective, mainly videographic, is dedicated to numerous other remarkable works by the artist. Visitors can view an installation of 14 single-channel videos. This Video Portrait Gallery is comprised of several works spanning from 1974 to the early 2000's. As a whole, the collection explores themes central to Abramovic’s work such as duration, ephemerality, and endurance.
Finally, on each concrete pillar that supports the mezzanine in the middle of the old factory building, archival footage of early performances Rhythm 5 (1974) and Freeing the Body (1975) play, along with Abramovic's collaborations with former partner Ulay. A more recent solo work from 2010, Confessions, is also screened here. In this video, she makes eye contact with a donkey for an hour, while talking about her past, childhood memories, life trajectory and even some humorous anecdotes.
Unlike the Abramovic Method, neither the retrospective nor the MAI Presents performances by Brazilian artists require advance registration. Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015.
Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015 @SESC Pompeia, São Paulo - Brazil.