The legendary, controversial, performance artist who does 'nothing' is finally returning to Australia after a 17-year absence. The subject of two major projects at Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), and an already semi-announced residency at Pier 2/3 with Kaldor Public Art Projects, Marina Abramovic is heading our way this June.
Beloved and equally criticised, 67-year-old Abramovic has been invited by both MONA's David Walsh and John Kaldor to create a two experiences for the public — a retrospective solo exhibition at MONA called Private Archaeology, beginning June 13 and running to October 5, followed on June 24 (through July 5) by Kaldor Projects’ Marina Abramovic: In Residence, with a series of exercises from the Abramovic Method happening over twelve days at Pier 2/3 from June 24 to July 5.
On the one hand, the MONA show Private Archaeology will be a major exhibition showing her early foundational work with German artist and Abramovic's former lover and collaborative partner Ulay, as well as more recent work. The exhibition intends to anchor the artist's current work in a historic context, featuring those pivotal solo works that brashly explored the artist's physical and mental limits. With Abramovic the main curator of the show, the works are 98 percent confirmed according to Walsh — who apparently wants to be as surprised as the audience when the exhibition opens. "Christ died on the Cross for our sins. So the New Testament tells us. Hopefully, I’ll do something worthy of his sacrifice one day. I’ve got real potential when it comes to sin," says Walsh. "Marina Abramovic seems to operate for all us. Her sins, her excesses, her minimalist, egocentric actions define the boundaries of what it is to be human. I would do the stuff she does if I had the balls. And the brains. And the desperation to understand. I’d rather be represented by a sinner than a saint."
On the other, Kaldor Projects’ Marina Abramovic: In Residence, will see the artist present for twelve days of classic Abramovic 'performances' (although she doesn't like to call them that). Leading on from the Serpentine Galleries exhibition 512 Hours, the artist's Sydney project will focus on audience participation with intense works like Counting the rice and her famous 'gaze' work — a play on her work The Artist is Present performed in New York's Museum of Modern Art, where you're asked to sit face-to-face with a stranger for a certain period (apparently Kaldor's still in contact with the stranger he sat opposite at the Serpentine). Abramovic will work with collaborator Lynsey Peisinger to create a series of spaces for exhibition visitors that invoke certain physical and psychological states. "In Sydney, for Marina Abramovic: In Residence, I will be like a conductor in the exhibition space, but it will be the public who take the physical and emotional journey," says Ambramovic. "We constantly like to be entertained, to get things from outside. We never take time to get in touch with ourselves... our inner self. My function in this new kind of performance situation is to show you, through the Abramovic Method, what you can do for yourself." There will also be artist residencies offered to 12 lucky Australian artists for the twelve day exhibition, all of whom will have mentoring from Abramovic herself. Best bit for the public? It's all free.
This is a big time pull for Australia, with two of the country's leading private arts patrons, Walsh and Kaldor, both separately approaching Abramovic, and both landing a 'yes'. Kaldor approached Abramovic following her successful involvement in Kaldor Project's applauded group exhibition 13 Rooms at Pier 2/3 — the work, Luminosity, which saw a naked artist wall-mounted on a bicycle seat for long periods of time (and didn't star Abramovic herself). Walsh approached the artist after meeting her over five years ago in Amsterdam. But this isn't the first time Abramovic has been to Australia; before presenting Gold found by the artists with Ulay at the 1979 Biennale of Sydney, the artist spent a cheeky five months with an Aboriginal community in central Australia in the '80s (and raised a baby kangaroo and cuddled this sheep).
Private Archaeology opens at MONA on June 13 and runs through October 5.
Kaldor Public Art Projects’ Marina Abramovi?: In Residence at Pier 2/3 Walsh Bay opens June 24 and runs through July 5.