(HUDSON, N.Y., August 13, 2012) – Performance artist Marina Abramovic gave her first public presentation on Sunday at the site of her proposed eponymous institute, to be located in the Community Tennis building, originally built as a movie theater. According to the artist, the so-called Marina Abramovic Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art will open in late 2014, and be a place where she “can share her own ideas about art,” with exhibitions, performances and an archive, all geared toward establishing her legacy as an artist.
“I will spend the next ten years of my life on this project,” said Abramovic, dressed all in white, although not in the white lab coats that she said will be de rigeur for all visitors to the institute, which will be devoted to long-duration, “immaterial” works of art.
Abramovic said she has cleared her schedule for the next year of all obligations other than traveling the world, talking up the institute, in order to raise the estimated $15 million it will take to implement her plans.
Abramovic said that in an era where everything happens quickly and art is generally commodified, her institute will be dedicated to the opposite – requiring viewers to commit to spending six hours at a time in the space, and to have an experience of art that is ephemeral and ultimately exists only in memory.
Serge Le Borgne, the former French art gallery owner who has been named director of the institute, emphasized that visitors to the museum will be full-fledged participants in the works of art, which cannot exist without an audience. “You are going to be spectacle,” he said to the crowd of a few hundred gathered in the open, cavernous, 20,000-square-foot raw space that will eventually house various chambers — including crystal and levitation rooms — in his French-inflected English. “You are going to be performers.”
“Doing long duration art changes you, both performer and public,” said Abramovic. “The public completes the work.”
Abramovic detailed some of the theoretical plans for the institution, saying that upon entry, visitors will be required to sign a “contract” stating that they will spend six hours there. “Otherwise you can’t get in,” said Abramovic. “If you don’t spend six hours, you can’t have the real experience.”
In order to have the complete experience without distractions, visitors will be required to surrender their watches, computers, smartphones and tablets. Lockers will be provided for personal belongings.
Visitors will don white lab coats embossed with the words “Abramovic Method,” in order to better see themselves as active participants, or “experimenters,” in the experience.
Just what that experience will be reamins somewhat nebulous. Abramovic mentioned different “chambers” and displayed PowerPoint slides, inclduing a levitation chamber and a crystal chambers. She also spoke about magnets.
“My dream is to ask David Lynch to make something 362 hours,” she said, referring to the visionary filmmaker of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
Attendants working at the institute will apparently roll visitors in wheelchair-like devices into the central chamber. Abramovic said that the chairs will be equipped with arms containing warm meals and drinks, given that the length of the typical stay will require feeding.
After eating, when visitors experience a food-induced coma, the attendants will wheel them into a sleep chamber, where they will nap while being viewed by other visitors. “You become part of the installation,” said Abramovic, perhaps unintentionally – perhaps not — raising the question among some in attendance of how much this gathering in and of itself was a performance, and how much the merely curious were in fact actors in a long-duration “performance” called, if you will, “Marina Abramovic Makes Plans for a Performance Art Institute in Hudson, N.Y.”
“We need hotels here,” said Abramovic, of this small, riverside city. “We need artists to buy buildings.”
At several points, Abramovic noted that she is planning the center with the input of famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and models of the completed building were on display.
In a follow-up question and answer period, Abramovic said that while she had yet to meet William H. Hallenbeck Jr., she very much looked forward to meeting the mayor of Hudson, as well as all the many shopowners, businesspeople, and artists in the community.
Responding to a question about what the entrance fee for the institute would be, Abramovic said that she didn’t “want it only to be for rich people.”
“When I open this center, the first people here, with no charge, should be people who live here,” she said.
Abramovic said at the same time she is planning her legacy institute in Hudson, she is also working on a mobile “center” that will travel around to other museums around the world, in order to showcase long-duration, ephemeral artworks.