COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCES #7

COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCES

WEEKLY DIARY #7

Text by INTERWEAVE for MAI

Photos by Natalia Tsoukala and Panos Kokkinos
Monday, April 25th – 2016

 

The seventh and last week of As One marks end of NEON + MAI’s exhibition.  

This week, five interventional performances were presented: “The Office of Public Unburdening” by Eugenia Tsanana; “Dance with me’ by Thomas Diafas, also presented during the fourth week of As One; “Portrait of the unknown man” by Yannis Antoniou & Stavros Apostolatos; ”There was voice” by Katerina Oikonomou, both presented also during the second week of the exhibition; “I came to the sea and I was scared. My heart is broken” by the invited Irish performance artist Kira O’ Reilly; and a re-performance of Marina Abramovic’s “Cleaning the Mirror” has been presented by Martha Pasakopoulou.

Highlights from the public programs included: Sofia-Eliza Bouratsi’s talk “The Body Outside Time - Aesthetics and Poetics of the Body in the Αbramovic Method”; Kira O’ Reilly’s talk and workshop; Jacopo Godani’ s talk and workshop; Thanos Argyropoulos’, Elina Kountouri’s and Serge Le Borgne’ s talk about the As One exhibition; Serge Le Borgne’s talk on ”Immateriality in the Arts”; Paula Garcia’s and Serge Le Borgne’s workshop with plenty of artists that have participated in As One.


 

Tuesday, April 19th: Day 33

This is the first day of Evgenia Tsanana’s “The Office of the Public Unburdening” six-day performance. Setting up an “office” at the Benaki Museum, the artist invites people to share their nightmares with her. The nightmares are written down in pencil on paper, then erased. She stores the rubbings in a small case, which she will carry to the sea to throw out on Sunday.

 

 

In the afternoon, the art theorist, curator and facilitator in the Abramovic Method, Sofia Eliza Bouratsi, delivered a lecture about the limits and the aesthetics of the body in the Abramovic Method. Titled “The body outside time – Aesthetics and Poetics of the Body in the Abramovic Method”, the lecture was based on a philosophical approach to the history of the body in art and was inspired by her experience as a facilitator in the As One exhibition.

 

Wednesday, April 20th: Day 34

 

Kira O’ Reilly,  Irish performance artist, along with the Greek performance artist Vasiliki Dimou, talked about O’ Reilly’s work “I came to the sea and I was scared. My heart is broken”. Dimou initially performed this work as part of a performance series called Love Letter to a (Post)-Europe, curated by Lisa Alexander], in place of O’Reilly.

 

Thursday, April 21st: Day 35

Choreographer Jacopo Godani and collaborator Luisa Sancho Escanero, of the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, leads two events: a two-hour workshop where Godani invites Greek dancers to take part in movements based on his style of dance, which aims to activate the underused parts of the body; and later in a public discussion. The two collaborators talk about dance as immaterial art and the differences and similarities between dance and performance art. At the end of their talk, they shared some video excerpts of their work.

 

Friday, April 22nd: Day 36

Kira O’ Reilly began performing her two-day intervention performance: using water, salt, vinegar and large copper pipes, the artist creates a work inspired by the words of a fisherman who found the bodies of young refugees on the beaches of Greece “I came to the sea and I was scared. My heart is broken”.

 

In the afternoon, MAI Director Thanos Argyropoulos, NEON director Elina Kountouri and MAI artistic director Serge Le Borgne, had a public discussion about the As One project, about the birth, the process and development, and final impact.

 

Saturday, April 23rd: Day 37

MAI Artistic director Serge Le Borgne’s gives a lecture on “Immateriality in the Arts”, which he discussed the philosophical meaning of immateriality, as well as how immateriality and performance are perceived in art; Le Borgne’s and Paula Garcia’s held a workshop with the project's performance artists: a number of the intervention and internationally acclaimed artists who participated in the project, talked about their experience and shared with the public thoughts and emotions.

 

Sunday, April 24th: Day 38

This day’s intervention performances included Katerina Oikonomou’s “There was voice”, which was also presented in As One during the second week of the exhibition - while Martha Pasakopoulou reperformed for the last time in this project “Cleaning the Mirror”, first performed by Marina Abramovic in 1995.

This last day of the exhibition was more like a celebration: the Benaki Museum was completely packed with people while intensely bittersweet emotions filled up the space. Some minutes before the closing time of the exhibition, several people were gathered around Virginia Mastrogiannaki’s space, to share the exhibition’s last minutes of life As One: everyone in the space counted down until 7.00’ p.m., thus marking the official end of As One.

 

COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCES #6

Collective Experiences

Weekly Diary #6

Text by INTERWEAVE for MAI

Photos by Natalia Tsoukala and Panos Kokkinos

Tuesday, April 19 – 2016

 

The sixth week of As One has come to an end. It was a week full of energetic moments, emotions, and experiences. This week three new interventional performances were presented: Rafael Abdala’s and Jessica Goes’ “Protovoulia”, Marianna Kavalieratos’ “Skin”, Elena Antoniou’s “An eight hour journey” and another re-performance of “Art must be beautiful, Artist must be beautiful”, first performed by Marina Abramovic in 1975.  

Highlights from the public programs include Olga Avgoustatou’s talk about silence and mutual gaze in literature; Thanassis Akokkalidis’, an As One intervention artist and facilitator, second workshop titled as “Follow yourself”; Paula Garcia’s talk about her work as a performance artist; Abdala’s and Goes’ lecture and workshop, “Protovoulia’; Syrago Tsiara’s talk “Body Trouble In Performance Art”; and Leda Papakonstantinou’s discussion about her work and performance art.


Tuesday April 12th: Day 28

The first day of this sixth week starts with Rafael Abdala and Jessica Goes’ “Protovoulia”, a call to action piece about exploring the empathy through the collaboration with other artists. Abdala and Goes, both dressed in white, inhabit one of the intervention spaces with  barbed wire, a hammer and nails. They spend the hours hammering, unwinding, and hooking barbed wire to create a fence on two walls. By the end of the day, they enclose themselves in the corner, inviting the public to join them.

 

In the space next to them, Marianna Kavallieratos begins her performance “Skin”. Dressing and undressing herself nonstop for eight hours, surrounded by a huge pile of clothes, the artist started her exploration of her true skin through the transformation of appearance.

 

First day of Elena Antoniou’s piece titled “An eight-hour journey”. Continuously following  a route delineated by a twenty-centimetre-wide white line that runs throughout the spaces of the Benaki Museum, Antoniou started an internal journey exploring the limits of the human, through a series of improvisational movements.

In the same day, two events took place on the first floor. Olga Avgoustatou delivered a lecture “I Looked You in the Eyes for Hours” on the experience of silence and mutual gaze in literary texts. Directly following this, Thanasis Akokkalidis led the second of his “Follow yourself” workshop where he invited people to explore freedom under set circumstances and restrictions.

 

Wednesday, April 13th: Day 29

The second and last day for Rafael Abdala’s and Jessica Goes’ “Protovoulia” – this day, their space has been brimming with energy: the several Greek artists who will also participate in the following days workshops join them in onsite. Abdala and Goes adds a selection of objects for the artists to experiment with: ropes, bandages, large newsprint paper, ink markers, and metal staples. As the day progresses, the social dynamic and actions constantly shift between playful, restful, or even hostile.

That afternoon, Paula Garcia gave a talk about her work: she talked about her experiences in performance art, while she shared thoughts and feelings with the audience and some other ideas for upcoming projects.  

 

Thursday, April 14th: Day 30

Christina Vasileiou begins her work“bd | n | sl”: for three days in a row, eight-hour per day, the artist explores the body’s reaction to constant, relentless sound, through dancing to music in a headset. Freely submitting to tracks selected by DJ , she isolated herself in a  constant flow of music and sounds, without engaging in any interaction from onlookers.

Rafael Abdala and Jessica Goes return to give a talk, introducing the project “Protovoulia”, while discussing the results from first two days, and showing works from their earlier collaborations with Brazil performance group, Grupo Empreza. Inviting several of the participants in their workshop who performed with them a day ago, they set their desires for Protovoulia to function with spontaneity and with its own identity, citing influences of the Gutai and Fluxus movement.

Friday, April 15th: Day 31

The events on Abdala’s and Goes’ “Protovoulía” continued in the first floor as a workshop that was also open to the public.a series of exercises, practiced Working again with a selection of materials, the performers move through all the museum spaces for four hours.

At the end of the day, Sirago Tsiara had a talk on the body’s trouble in performance art, focusing on the historical role of female artists at the beginnings of performance and the characteristics of the current generation of artists.

 

Saturday, April 16th: Day 32

The day starts with the second day of the “Protovoulia” workshop, led by Rafael Abdala and Jessica Goes for four hours.. After the end of their workshop,  Leda Papakonstantinou’s and Syrago Tsiara gave a talk about performance. After Tsiara presented some highlights of Papakonstantinou’s performance works, the two opened the conversation up to the public. Papakonstantinou opened up about her personal life and relationship with art.

 

Sunday, April 17th: Day 33

The week closes with two significant events: a re-performance of Marina Abramovic’s “Art must be beautiful, Artist must be beautiful”, presented for the fifth and last time in the As One exhibition and the performance presentation of the “Protovoulia” running for eight hours. Both the two international and As One’s intervention artists inhabited the first floor’s space to present a series of actions through collaboration. For the entire day, a number of  of people watched the constantly evolving interaction and occasionally participating.

MARINA ABRAMOVIC WORKSHOP II

Marina Abramovic’ Second Workshop Highlights

Text by INTERWEAVE for MAI
Photos by NATALIA TSOUKALA

Wednesday, March 30th – 2016

 

 

It is March 22nd, the first day of As One’s third week and Marina Abramovic is leading the second and final workshop that she will conduct during the exhibition. Abramovic is going to talk with eight Greek artists -some of whom have also presented interventional performance works in As One-, and explore different ways to develop their work.

After inviting the audience to breathe deeply with their eyes closed, Abramovic welcomes them to a ”here and now” state, and she describes the structure that the workshop is going to follow: she is going to share with the audience some video items from her own archive while explaining some core concepts and practices applied to performance art (performing with the chest, performing body, body limits, body drama); she is going to discuss the Cleaning the House workshop and the way it prepares artists for long-durational performance; and then she will yield the floor to the artists, to present their work.

 

The Performing Body, Body Limits, Body Drama

To begin, she points out that “In performance art, everything has a meaning”: you may use your whole body as a tool to express yourself.

 

Abramovic projects video excerpts to illustrate how someone can make performance by using several parts of his/ her body, such as the chest. Immediately after, she explains how the quality of the performance can depend on the artist, using something that they are familiar with: “If you are a writer, you work with the text; if you are a dancer, you use dance; if you are a visual artist you work with visual material.”

 

To highlight the way in which an artist can use his/ her entire body as a tool to do performance art, she makes an extended reference to Pina Bausch. “Pina Bausch actually married performance with dance. She put the performance artist in real situations, such as mountain or snow. That’s why the emotion generated by her works is real.”

 

Then she talks about the body limits and the body drama:

Body limits come when you feel that you can’t keep on going anymore, while in the same time you understand that you have to use every single molecule to go further. Body drama is what happens when there is a severe change in energetic states in the body, such as what happens to a singer when they perform for a large crowd and receive all of the energy from the crowd.”

 

The Cleaning the House Workshop

To continue, Abramovic talks about the long-durational performance works presented in As One: “How are these artists able to perform for seven weeks? They have done some preparation. And their preparation is called Cleaning the House” – a workshop designed by Marina Abramovic. Lynsey Peisinger, one of Marina Abramovic’s closest collaborators and the person that led the Cleaning the House workshop for As One’s artists, is invited on stage. She talks about the experience they all shared in January, in the Peloponnese: the artists and some members of the NEON + MAI teams. 

This workshop and the exercises included in it, are designed to push the artists’ physical and mental limits, in order to prepare them for their long-durational performances in which all of their limits will be challenged. They needed to have a set of tools that they could use and rely on during the seven weeks of performing.

 

Marina and the Artists

After this analysis of performance art, it’s time for the artists to take the floor.

 

The first artist: Beatrice Markopoulou, visual artist, presents her work on femininity in the domesticated environment and the tension between life and death. After her short-length presentation, Marina Abramovic shares with the artist some of her thoughts: “It is not very clear to me what your work is about - I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t explained it to us”.

Τhe second artist: Marianna Kavalieratos, dancer and choreographer, shares with the public some video extracts of her previous dance works and points out that her work is about movement and composition: “The movements included are simple and pedestrian and it takes a lot of preparation and a lot of brain memory together with body memory”, she says. Then, the artist puts music on and asks the audience to follow her in a series of movement. Everyone really enjoyed it - including Abramovic!

The third artist: Emilia Bouriti, choreographer and visual artist shows some video excerpts on her work “Time Space Energy”, while pointing out that her work tries to communicate with the energy of the space and to translate it into movements.

The fourth artist: Yiannis Pappas, visual artist and one of the interventional artists of As One, presents some video excerpts of his work, and highlights that his work “explores natural or urban spaces with a critical interest in space and its symbolic elements”. After the presentation of his work, Marina Abramovic asked him several questions on the concept of his pieces and asked him to talk about the work he presented in As One (“A Key”). She concluded in a really enthusiastic tone “I am so happy that you are part of this event!”.

The fifth artist: Nikos Konstantakis, actor and performer, presents his work through just a single photo of himself standing next to the number "seven” with his body in the shape of a number seven. He then asks the public to stand up, close their eyes and interact with him. Abramovic asks him how he categorizes his work and he replies that he is a performer, so he works with his body and when he needs music, he works with music -while using also his voice, movement etc.

The sixth artist: Katerina Oikonomou, soprano and one of the interventional artists of As One, shared a video with her singing and then talked for several minutes about the interventional work she presented during the second week of the exhibition: “The second day of my performance, there was no voice. But I came, because I wanted to share this experience with the public. After her presentation, Marina Abramovic, truly thrilled, comments that it was incredible that Katerina had the courage to come back without a voice. “And that’s what made this performance unique”.

The seventh artist: Anastasia Papatheodorou, actress, director and performer and one of the interventional artists of As One, shared her As One experience with the public. “I tried to open a dialogue with the audience – to make them cry, think, remove themselves from where they are. And this durational work offered me the chance to dive into myself. Thank you for that”, she says.  

The eight artist is a duo: Lovesick (Vassilis Raftoyiannis, Petros Papaeleftheriou), a pair of music DJ’s. They present their work in a really different way. After pointing out that their work consists of playing music in a long durational format, by conducting music marathons, they have a small talk with Abramovic on that style of long-durational work: “For me, the music marathons that you do are a very interesting type of performance, because in this way you reach different social structures and backgrounds”, she says.

Immediately after this, the artists played music for about twenty minutes and many members of the audience danced.

THE ABRAMOVIC METHOD: A LECTURE BY LYNSEY PEISINGER

THE ABRAMOVIC METHOD: A LECTURE BY LYNSEY PEISINGER

Text by INTERWEAVE for MAI
Photos by Natalia Tsoukala, Hick Duarte, Filipe Neves, and Tokomburu

Tuesday, March 15th – 2016

 

Her lecture starts with a familiar song from the late ‘80’s: “Alone”, an epic song by Heart that talks about secret and unrequited love and people getting by on their own. Three minutes later, Lynsey Peisinger, one of Marina Abramovic’s closest collaborators and the one responsible to select and train the Abramovic Method facilitators all over the world, starts talking about togetherness, collectiveness and participatory experiences - then on the Method: its origins, its development through time, its current form, and the way that it can be experienced in the As One exhibition.

 

The Origins

The origins of the Abramovic Method are found in the “Cleaning The House”, a workshop that Marina developed over the years as a teacher, in order to help her students create ideas and be prepared to undertake long-durational performances.

The workshop, which typically lasts five to 7 days, takes place in nature: during the workshop, the participants typically share the same space to sleep, they are not talking or eating and they are experiencing a series of durational exercises, inspired by many peoples and cultures that Marina has studied with including Brazilian shamans, Aboriginal people of Australia, and Tibetan monks.

Her need for strict rules in the workshop and also in her work is related to her family environment: as child of two very strict parents, who both held positions in the Communist Government, she grew up with rules – thus, when she moved from Belgrade to Amsterdam, a city of complete freedom, she felt lost without any restrictions: she felt the need to make rules for herself, not only because they were something to push against, but also because their existence made her much more productive and clear-minded.

“Before working with Marina, I thought that rules were the opposite of freedom. But when working with her, I realized that with rules, you can have a lot of freedom. Rules provide freedom”.

 

2012: The Abramovic Method at PAC Milan

Marina understood the power of the “Cleaning the House” workshop and started thinking of ways to offer it to the general public, not only to students and artists.. In 2012, she was invited to Milan to present a show called the Abramovic Method - the first form of the Method, which is very different from its current form.

At that time, Marina was working on the idea of using objects with energetic properties to see in what way they can interact with people. So, the Method followed a structure that would serve this vision. People would experience the Method through three basic positions of the body: sitting, standing and lying down. They would sign up in advance and agree to experience the Method for 2 ½ hours, in groups of 21. When arriving, they would put all their belongings in a locker, especially phones and watches or anything that was distracting and then would split into groups and use each of the objects (beds, chairs,, copper towers) for thirty minutes. At the end, they would write down their impressions. It was, then, the first time that the Method had its own form, and it was really strict: there was a specific time frame and flow to the Method that the public would follow.


In addition, during that time, Marina was exploring deeper the role of the person observed and the role of the person observing. She wanted to express that these roles were interchangeable by letting the participants in the Method be observed by the public through magnifying binoculars, so that they could see them close up. And then, the following day, if the people watching would like to come back to the Method, their roles switched.

“This was something truly important because it was one step towards understanding how the public becomes a performing body.”

 

2014: The Shift in the Method

In 2014, Marina was invited by the Serpentine Gallery to London for a sixty-four day performance. Although she did not know exactly what she was going to present there, she knew, already since the beginning of the process, that she was going to use the public: their energy would be the material of her piece.

She decided to use some of the “Cleaning The House” exercises (slow motion walking, counting rice, walking backwards with the mirror etc.) in that specific space in order to generate a certain communal energy and strong connection among the visitors. The public would queue to get inside, follow the same locker protocol as in Milan and they would put on headphones when entering the space in order to eliminate external noise. “The act of waiting in the line is extremely important because it has a dimension of commitment – if people wanted to have the experience, they had to carve time out of their day.”

It was then that she introduced the idea of the facilitators in order to help manage the people in the space. “I selected and trained fifty people to be in the space with us, to facilitate the process”.

As for the roles of the observer and the observed, they became even more fluid: “It was this interchanging of roles, witness and participant,, that provided a sense of communal vulnerability and empathy”.

The result was beautiful: the material of the piece was the energy generated by the people participating in it, sharing the experience.

We had created a non-discriminatory space, open to everyone, regardless of their culture, race, religion, socio-economic status. We were uniting people through common experiences that had a real energetic connection”.

 

The Method today:

The Method presented at Terra Comunal: Marina Abramovic + MAI, 2015

The Method presented at Terra Comunal: Marina Abramovic + MAI, 2015

In 2015, a version of the Method was presented in Brazil, during Terra Comunal – it was more like the format of the version of the Method that was presented in Milan. “That one too, is quite beautiful, because it gives people the opportunity of silence – and they were connected to each other, as well - though it wasn’t as palpable as the one experienced at the Serpentine”.

 

Before Athens, we presented the Method also in Australia, in Sydney, and in Buenos Aires.

 

“Those two experiences were great and made us understand that the one in the Serpentine was the direction we wanted to give to the Method”.

 

 

In Athens, the Method has matured even more: it is the first time that it has all of its components the public has autonomy inside the space with regards to how long they participate and what exercises they do. It is a very flexible pace as it is going to develop and shift during these six weeks. I have also trained seventy facilitators in an intensive three day workshop, based on a simplified version "Cleaning the House" designed for larger groups to be held in an urban environment. "We have put a lot of attention on the facilitators because they are the people that set the energetic tone at each space. They are creating and maintaining the energetic content in the space”.

“The Method may have started as a performance. But then it continued as a participatory experience for people. And that is its intention: that people would connect both with themselves and other people too”. 


NEON + MAI | As One
March 10 - April 24, 2016
Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos St. Athens, Greece