Marina Abramovic's Method Class is Not for the Faint-Hearted
Abramovic has spent over 40 years honing her craft, and has now imparted the most invaluable lessons she’s learned to a group of lucky students in Athens, Greece. Coined the “Abramovic Method,” she gave her students a series of exercises designed to mentally and physically challenge them and their artistic processes. The resulting performances and artworks were showcased this past Thursday in “As One,” an exhibition that was organized in collaboration between the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI) and the nonprofit NEON, and that’s currently on display at Athens’ Benaki Museum. Out of 300 submissions, only 29 artists were selected to enroll in Abramovic’s course, and to subsequently partake in this show.
“I am trying this month to always talk to them before they start, not when they finish because they are too tired, to see what they are feeling,” said Abramovic. “Yesterday was only the opening but by the end of the week, I am expecting them to get into difficulties, and I know, because I have done it myself, that I am the best person to help them get over it.”
The exhibit showcases a variety of intense performances that could’ve only been influenced by Abramovic. Before entering the exhibition, guests are asked to cleanse themselves of the outside world in order to fully concentrate on the works at hand. This means removing objects like a phone, watch, or any other items that could potentially distract. After some breathing and stretching exercises, the guests are asked to wear noise-cancelling headphones, and to then stand, eyes shut and in complete silence, in order to wholly disconnect.
Some of the performances in “As One” sound like pure torture. In “Jargon (2016),” for instance, Virginia Mastrogiannaki counts the seconds eight hours a day, seven days a week, while the exhibit is open. That’s 324 hours, in case you were wondering—or, as Abramovic put it, “hell.”
In “One Person at a Time (2016),” artist Yoto Agryropoulou stands in one of two identical rooms that are divided by glass. As a guest enters the room, Agryropoulou silently mimics them. The result usually goes one of two ways: effects can either result in a connection with the guest, similar to the connection in Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, or it can be an unwelcome interaction. It’s based on what attitude the guest brings with them into the room. Essentially, you’re staring at yourself through another body, which can be intimidating and awkward.
This isn’t the first demonstration of the Abramovic Method. Lady Gaga and Abramovic collaborated back in 2013, resulting in a two-minute video of Lady Gaga monotonously yelling, walking around in the forest naked, and bathing in healing crystals. Although this sounds like a routine weekend retreat for Gaga, it had some life-long effects. Before Abramovic, Gaga developed a dependence on marijuana after sustaining a serious hip injury. She was smoking about fifteen joints a day to get through performances and cope with the pain. Abramovic helped Gaga through the addiction, using a series of method exercises to get her to go cold turkey.
If you can’t travel all the way to Athens to experience the Abramovic Method first-hand, there is a shortcut: you can watch Abramovic’s beginner method video of easy at-home exercises. The famous MoMA artist already taught me that I’ve been drinking water wrong my entire life. Exercises include writing your name and counting grains of rice. See if you have the potential to be an Abramovic student–I know I sure don’t.
Stay tuned to Milk for more performance art.