Marina Abramović Institute built and ready for opening. Known for her controversial and oftentimes dangerous performance pieces (in one she passively allowed an audience to inflict whatever pleasures or pain they chose), Abramović is completely dedicated to the preservation and presentation of long durational work. She hopes this new institute (MAI) will provide an open place to host a number of various workshops, lectures, and research, ultimately enabling society to open a dialogue about what art is and how it works alongside science, technology, and spirituality.
With 40 years of work behind her, Abramović's most recent piece was in 2010, titled The Artist Is Present, and was held at the Museum of Modern Art. For three months she sat across from complete strangers, experimenting with gaze and connection. More than 1,500 people came to stare into her eyes, with many having an emotional reaction (including Abramović herself). She attributes this experience to helping her realize society's need to connect with one another in person and the lack of spaces dedicated to such an alliance, eventually giving thought to an institute dedicated to long durational works (a performance lasting at least six hours) that can facilitate connection.
If you're wondering what exactly MAI will focus on, it will be everything from art and dance to opera and film, as well as anything else that arises in the future. The institute "will provide an educational space to host workshops, lectures, residencies, and research."
Photo Courtesy of Kickstarter
Funding for the first stage has been open since July 26 and won't close until August 25, with $185,481 of the $600K goal raised at the time of this article. The project will actually need $20M to complete renovations on the building she bought at 620 Columbia Street in Hudson, NY for $950,000 specifically for the institution. Before you think Abramović is looking for others to pay for her vision, she "funded the MAI office for six months and commissioned the architectural concept" on her own, already putting in $1.5M towards phase zero of the school.
In pure Abramović fashion, I hope you're not expecting average rewards for your donations. While you can contribute as little as $5, you should at least give $25 — which will allow you to participate in her Water Drinking, Slow Motion Walk or Eye Gazing exercise/live events. Each of these three exercises are meant to make you more aware of yourself and the world around you. Abramović, yourself, and other backers will perform your chosen exercise simultaneously via live stream, giving you the chance to document the experience however you want and the opportunity to have it included in the MAI digital archives.
Giving $250 will pre-register you for a ride in the compatibility racer installation, a cart controlled by the brainwaves of the two drivers, which Abramović has been developing alongside neuroscientists. If you want a tour of the MAI building in New York City, alongside other perks, consider contributing $500. True fans of the artist will be interested in the $1,000 and up packages, which include participating in the eye gaze with Abramović directly via webcam, a workshop of your project in any medium with the artist herself, and even attending an event with her. However, the true performance art aficionado may want nothing in return, which is where donating $10,000 comes in — Abramović will do nothing, you'll do nothing, and your contribution won't be acknowledged. If you're wondering who would take that deal, seven people already have.
For many, this Kickstarter marks a new introduction to the usually stoic and intense Abramović as she shows a side of herself that hasn't necessarily been seen by the public. In many videos supporting MAI she is seen laughing and making jokes, creating a magnetic pull towards her and the institute. Aside from a hilarious video in which she tries multiple times to tell a "How many lightbulbs…" joke, she also recently appeared in Jay Z's performance art music video for "Picasso Baby," bringing the art form to a much broader audience — though it's worth noting that band The National partook in some long durational work back in May when they performed their song "Sorrow" for six hours straight. Abramović also teamed up with Lady Gaga, recording the singer reading the sci-fi novel Solaris (which took eight hours), as well as collaborating on Gaga's upcoming record ARTPOP.
Photo Courtesy of MoMA