NEW YORK — When you walk into the Marina Abramovic Institute in Hudson, New York, you will have to surrender your cell phone, your watch, and your iPod. You will put on a white lab coat and sign a piece of paper pledging to stay for at least two-and-a-half hours. “I want to create a school for the public,” Abramovic said, as she unveiled the designs of her forthcoming Hudson performance palace at a press conference this morning. “We’ve never been taught how to see something long-durational, we are so distracted.”
The Marina Abramovic Institute — both a performance space and training center for the Abramovic Method, which teaches participants how to view and participate in long-durational works of art — will take root in a converted tennis court in downtown Hudson. The space features a sprawling central chamber meant to seat an audience of 650, where all performances will last a minimum of six hours. “My dream is to invite David Lynch to make 360 hours of movie,” Abramovic said. (A screening of Christian Marclay's “The Clock” wouldn’t be half bad either.)
The architects at Rem Koolhaas’s OMA designed the space with the notion of duration in mind. They looked at different typologies of long-term spectator sports, such as a baseball game. “It’s quite long and sometimes very boring. No offense,” said lead architect Shohei Shigematsu. “What’s interesting is that it’s so long that you can watch the game while you’re doing something else.”
To that end, the architects sought to design additional spaces for a more casual audience scattered throughout the building. The main performance space is surrounded by a ring of rooms that face into the central theater, allowing what the architects call a “second audience” to peer into the main performance while doing other things: reading in the library, having a coffee in the café, or floating in the levitation hall. (Yes, you read that right.) If all goes according to plan, Abramovic plans to open the institute at the end of 2014, but until then she will be training artists and others in the Abramovic method of high-endurance performance art at other venues around the world, including London’s Serpentine Gallery. Below, ARTINFO highlights the best rooms planned for Abramovic’s institute.
Anticipating an explosion that could potentially wipe out our planet’s digital information, Abramovic envisions sanctuaries where digital data (like a song by her favorite band, Antony and the Johnsons) will be engraved onto the marble walls. “You can think of the oldest material and the newest technology merged together,” Abramovic said. “If we completely disappear from this planet and some new intelligent civilization comes on this earth, they can see these marble engravings and decode us.”
While Abramovic has proven her staying-up power, OMA anticipates the audience of a 30-hour performance would eventually have to sleep. They’ll install space above the foyer where spectators will be “stored” if they nod off, and to faciliate the process, they’ve designed reclining, comfy wheelchairs (after looking to orbiting space stations, hospital beds, airplanes, and other places where people tend to spend a lot of time sitting) that Institute employees will happily wheel you up there in.
One small room in Abramovic’s institute will be entirely comprised of crystals. Hanging down from the ceiling like stalagtites and poking out from the walls, the crystals “will be regenerating,” explained Abramovic — they will transform the room into a kind of meditative cave. The crystal room recalls a series of transitory objects Abramovic began in 1989, which incorporated quartz and other minerals she believed held vital energy. By standing on top, next to, or underneath these objects, viewers were able to absorb their aura. With the crystal room, Abramovic will be going whole hog, surrounding visitors with this powerful material.
Quartz Resting Room
If being in a room surrounded by crystals is too intense, there is also a room filled with ascetic wooden beds beneath which rough-hewn blocks of quartz and other crystals will hang. Visitors will lie on the beds and absorb the quartz’s energy. At her recent exhibition at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan, Abramovic had 20 volunteers lie on similar planks for two hours.
One room in the institute will be devoted to experiencing the sensation of levitation created by magnetic fields. Visitors will climb stairs to reach a series of platforms protruding from the wall. As they lie down, the steps will recede, and the platform will stay in the air. The result is an “antigravitational feeling,” according to Abramovic, one that will allow participants to experience their bodies in a new way.