‘Performance art has the power to change lives’: Marina Abramović in Athens
‘I can’t do performances in public like I used to, people follow me around and want to take selfies,’ said Marina Abramović at the opening of ’As One’. The exhibition has been developed in collaboration with Athens-based contemporary arts organisation NEON. On show at the city’s Benaki Museum, the project saw Abramović self-select a group of Athenian artists to learn her globally famous practice, The Method. It’s a smart use of the celebrity Abramović’s work has garnered – and despite the selfies, she launched ’As One’ with a two-week residency in Athens.
’As One’ began with a callout for Greek artists interested in practising The Abramović Method, honed by the artist over 40 years in locales from São Paulo to New York. She then chose 29 candidates from 320 applications based on the intuitive criteria of ‘when they’re good, I know instantly’, to teach the levelling kernel of her manifesto: ‘It’s about pain and communication. People would rather text than phone, no-one makes eye-contact anymore. We need to communicate physically.’
This conviction runs through the performances. Abramović is clearly interested in the transformative effects offered by fear. Thanassis Akokkalidis’ Don’t Look Down – an attempt to cure vertigo by standing on the precipice of a building – testified to Abramović’s commitment to self-actualisation as a harrowing process.
‘In Athens, Marina’s presence is very important,’ said NEON director Elina Kountouri. ‘She is key to helping people understand the power of durational performance.’
For Abramović, the residency is her most political to date and promotes art as political platform: ‘I’d like to take it to the Ukraine and Paris. Many governments view creativity as a luxury, but culture is a necessity. People can change consciousness by developing an awareness of themselves, that’s what performance does. I can only create change with art and performance, these are my tools.’