512 Hours – Performance Review

The Spirit in Any Condition Does Not Burn

Marina Abramović | 512 Hours | The Serpentine Gallery | 2014

By Jordana Bragg

From 11 June – 25 August 2014 performance artist Marina Abramović completed a durational performance piece provoking/relying upon audience engagement, titled: 512 Hours. The title of the work directly references the duration, as from 11 June – 25 August six days a week from 10:00am-6:00pm, Abramović and gallery assistants commandeered a gallery space within The Serpentine (located in Kensington Gardens, London). After waiting in line participants were asked to remove and place their personal belongs (in particular watches, cameras and cellphones) into lockers. Once inside Abramović and/or a gallery assistant silently facilitated participants into undertaking simple actions, which aimed to encourage a heightened sense of attentiveness to the present, including staring at a wall, slow walking and counting grains of rice.

Not unlike Abramović’s durational performance piece as part of her retrospective The Artist is Present at MOMA (NYC), March 14-May 21 2001, where for a total of 736 hours and thirty minutes over three months for the entire duration of the retrospective Abramović sat across from gallery visitors and made eye contact with them, 512 Hours has been defined largely as ‘immaterial’, ‘nonobject’, with a focus on audience engagement.

My introduction to 512 Hours came via an article published on http://www.telegraph.co.uk written by Richard Dorment, under the heading: ‘I hated every second but I can’t deny its power’. This initial information from the perspective of someone who had directly experienced the work was interesting, if nothing else, as Dorment proceeded to undermine his own intellegence and writing prowess by constantly referring to Abramović’s appearance and age as opposed to the work,

‘Only a person of her age, experience and appearance could have carried it off… In appearance Abramović’ looks like a cross between Clytemnestra and an Earth Mother. Her beauty is inseparable from a personality so powerful that she can silence a room just by entering it’, (Dorment, 2014).

Framing the power of Abramović’s performance work as directly referential to her physical attributes brings to mind a recent twitter campaign: #AskHerMore, which prompts reporters to reconsider their repetitious use of questions which devalue the accomplishments of women in the industry such as ‘who are you wearing’ and ‘how did you get in shape’.

After negotiating my way around similar articles I discovered Marina at Midnight, an online source of video’s uploaded each night to The Serpentine Gallery website, featuring Abramović speaking of the day she had just experienced as part of 512 hours. This resource allowed those who could not attend insight directly from Abramović’ and served to reiterate the artist’s endearment towards the audience.

Marina at Midnight: http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/marina-midnight-serpentine-diaries

Richard Dorment Review of 512 Hours: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/10895104/Marina-Abramovic-review-I-hated-every-second-but-I-cant-deny-its-power.html