Marina Abramovich’s 512 Hours @ The Serpentine Gallery

Marina Abramovich’s 512 Hours is simply beautiful.
The experience reminded me of a vipassana retreat: many people, alone together in a room in silence. Each one going on their own journey and given complete autonomy of what they do with or, rather, what they take from the situation.  I felt very respected as a goer, I was not played to, I was not taken on Abramovich’s idea of what my journey should be. I was trusted and empowered to make of this experience what I could: refreshing to not have everything handed to me on an imaginative plate.
Save for a few parameters set: we all walked slowly, we sat, stood, or lay. That’s it. No one spoke, but the rules of the space were clear and immediately understood.
For my part it raised questions about spirituality in the modern age: are art galleries now a place of sanctuary and solance from the outside world? A place where we are comfortable engaging in practices that are designed to address the more fundamental questions of life and nothingness? (I realize that I’m working from the point of view of someone who lives in circles that don’t ascribe to any of the major religions, so my questions pertain more to that spiritually disallusioned sector of society.)
The arts began as religious and ritualized practice and operated in within culturally specific religious and ceremonial frameworks. Slowly slowly offshoots of each discipline began to carve out their own spaces, serve their own desires, and ask their own questions.  Now, with 512 Hours and along with lots of interpretive spiritual imagery being made (or perhaps just coming across my path), I wonder if things have come full circle. Only this time rather than holy places facilitating art, it is art that is facilitating the reintroduction of holy nothing spaces into the modern world. Are the blank white walls the only place where we feel free to let go and be quiet?
512 is powerful in its simplicity. It is not trying to do too much, it simply asks us all to just be for a short period of time and see what happens. There are no big conclusions, no adreneline rushes, just a continuous line of tension without any embued meaning. Nothingness.

 

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