It was a cold and rainy Saturday on October 4th and I had woken up around 9am to head to a warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The event was being held for the backers of the Marina Abramovic Institute project in Hudson, New York. She had decided to meet with us and take a moment to personally thank us. She called the event “The Embrace.”
Marina Abramovic swept the MOMA back in 2010 with her performance piece The Artist Is Present, which invited museum goers to sit across from her in the museum’s atrium and engage in an intense silent stare-off while spectators waited for their own turn. The piece catapulted her to pop culture status with the arrival of Lady Gaga and other celebrity artist wanting to get a piece of Abramovic’s intensity.
Abramovic is not new to performance art. Her career spans back to the early 1970’s and her debut piece had her test the elements of ritual and gesture; she had twenty knives with which she made rhythmic thrusts at her splayed fingers. It was part of an reenactment of a Russian game and she used a tape recorder to examine the sounds in order for her recreate the same movements and in order to replicate the same mistakes. Her thesis was to explore the physical and mental limitations of the body—the pain of the stabs and the sounds merging with her memory attempting to repeat the movements from before. Once the piece was finished, she said, “Once you enter in the performance state you can push your body to do things you absolutely could never normally do.”
Once I arrived, I was escorted to a big white room with several computers lying around the floor and a camera that was pointing at her. The event was being broadcasted live via Youtube. I watched as “embracers” took her energy in and conversed with her quietly for several minutes. It felt much like a ritual where pupils were waiting for their one-on-one with their Guru master.
My turn came and I walked up and put my arms around her black cloaked body and let out a deep sigh. We held each other for about a minute before I broke the silence and told her that what she was doing was very important. She released her arms and held my hands. She looked deep into my eyes and said, “This is very important. We have much work to do.” She went on to comment that there is so much pain going on in the world and we are too busy to stop and embrace one another, sometimes even the ones we love. I immediately understood why she set out to make an event out of this moment and wanted to have it broadcast all over the world.
My brief moment with Marina felt like an eternity because it still lingers with me. The institute in Hudson (it will open later this year) that I helped back on Kickstarter will bring an interactive mind and body cleansing experience, where people will undergo a series of workshops devised by her. If you missed her at MOMA, (like I did) don’t miss another chance to get acquainted with a raw artist that forces you to examine time and space.