Sometimes, things just happen. Standing outside Kaldor Public Art Projects, chatting to a client on the phone whilst waiting to go in to the Marina Abramovic exhibition, who should should stroll along but… Marina Abramovic! For ten minutes I had the incredible pleasure of an intimate chat with the most significant performance artist operating today. No, she doesn’t make monumental paintings, or create fabulous sculptures. Neither is her work really ‘body art’. Abramovic operates on a totally different plane, engaging with her audience in a way that throws all preconceived notions of how to be in the world, into question.
It’s entirely fitting that she has installed herself and her show at Kaldor Public Art Projects, such a visionary program instituted by a visionary man who tirelessly strives to bring the most cutting edge art to Australia, for the public, for free. Remember Christo and Jeanne Claude’s Wrapped Island in Little Bay at the end of the 1960s? Kaldor. Jeff Koon’s giant floral Puppy outside the MCA in 2000? Kaldor. 2013’s extraordinary ’13 Rooms’? Kaldor. Gilbert & George at AGNSW. John Kaldor is giant of a man, philanthropist and benefactor on a major scale – we are very lucky to have him on the scene.
As for Abramovic, wow. No, seriously, wow! I have been buzzing ever since I saw the show, and am yet too overwhelmed to even consider going back. It left me so breathless. Firstly, she loves Australia. In fact, loves all primary cultures, she’s almost shamanistic in her way of looking at world. Repetition, endurance, ritual, silence, pain – these are all key elements of her work. And of course of our every day, an every day she facilitates us zooming in on, taking us outside of ourselves in the process. “My role is to be a servant to the people,” she told me. “The goal is to uplift the people. From the moment I was born to the moment I die, all I can do is make art.” Have I said ‘wow’ yet? What an extraordinary human being, an artist of the Nth magnitude. Truly, quite divine, she exudes warmth and LOVE.
I don’t want to give too much away here. The installation – if you can call it such, she’s in attendance, each and every day, along with a bevy of acolytes who assist the audience through the whole experience, an experience that I witnessed bring people to tears, had them laying down to sleep, off in their own worlds. What I will say, is that it requires surrender. An absolute giving up of self only to find oneself, a putting aside of the quotidian that is made clear from the first gesture: you need to give over your cell phones and any other accoutrements, which are checked into a locker until you depart.
As you might know, I have been a committed meditator for the past 25 years and often attend retreats that involve a number of Marina’s “methods” – endurance, silence, repetition. Visiting Marina Abramovic in Residence has a similar effect on me to one of these retreats – it’s an experience not to missed. The more you give (of time, of yourself, of love), the more you will receive!