2 and ½ hours of me

2 AND ½ HOURS OF ME

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE ABRAMOVIC METHOD

Text by Gustavo Bonfiglioli
Photographs by Victor Nomoto
Thrusday, March 19 - 2015

It's 11:28 am and the whole place is full of energy. There's a long line for the cafeteria. People of all ages, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes are walking around the exhibition. They're wandering quietly, mindfully watching Marina's performance videos, enthusiastically gesturing and talking with each other about their experiences. 

There is a group of 96 people waiting by the white walls. I'm one of them.

Two Abramovic Method facilitators with grey jumpsuits direct the group to enter the white corridor in silence and hand over all sources of connection to the outside world. Phones, cameras, watches, and tablets are left behind in lockers. I am invited to take off my shoes if I want to. I do.

The group is gathered in an antechamber. Marina Abramovic welcomes us on TV screens with her collaborator Lynsey Peisinger. She leads a half-hour instructional video with breathing and body exercises to prepare us for the Method. After this, the facilitators give us each a pair of noise cancelling headphones. When I put them on, all I hear are my steps, my breathing, and my soul. There is a very low and distant (but constant) buzzing sound, as if I'm trapped inside of a seashell. 

PART ONE - LAYING DOWN - 30 min. 

My group starts with laying down. I choose one of the beds with a crystal pillow and another crystal piece in the middle, connecting with the very center of my body, my lumbar spine. At this point I'm still thinking about how long it will take until the next exercise, as if I'm reading a book and anxiety leads me to check how many pages are left. I need to focus on the process, I still don't feel 100% present.

After some time, I become uncomfortable remaining in the exact same position without moving a muscle. I give up and bend my legs slightly in a diamond shape. My breathing is slower and deeper now. From this moment on, I fall into state of limbo between sleep and consciousness.

PART TWO - STANDING - 30 min. 

I'll have to remain standing in front of three crystal spikes for the next 30 minutes. Standing like this for a long time would be normally a challenge, and that's exactly what makes this step the most desirable in the whole Method process I'm undertaking. I start touching the crystal pointing at my chest gingerly, feeling every single scratch, every groove, as if I'm reading its geometry in Braille. 

After some time - already unsure if 5, 10 or 20 minutes have passed - I feel so happy to be standing still and dealing peacefully with the discomfort on my feet that I smile to the crystal facing me. I close my eyes and start, very slowly, to lean my body forward until the tip of the crystal touches my forehead. As my head approaches it, centimeter by centimeter, I feel an energy point in the middle of my forehead. Millimeters away from the crystal, the energy point starts to heat up. I wonder when it will touch me - feels like an eternity. 

When my head and the crystal finally meet, the energy point spreads to the rest of my head and disappears. I'm 100% inside myself now.

PART THREE - SITTING - 30 min. 

I'm sitting in a chair with spiked crystals. A woman is in another crystal chair facing me. We make eye contact, engaging in what the Method refers to as mutual gaze, immediately. It's paradoxical: we are quiet and still, but there is a dynamic and lively circle of energy moving around us.

The circle breaks when she closes her eyes and engages with her own halo of energy again. I do the same, focusing on my breathing, hearing the flow of oxygen molecules that comes into my lungs.

At this point, I being to get distracted with the environment, watching different people participating in the exercises. Their expressions range from impatient, focused, or petrified, to confused, overwhelmed, and often simply present. 

I suddenly realize my mutual gaze partner is looking into my eyes again, with a much more assertive look than before. We look at each other wholly and with courage. After a while, teardrops start falling from her eyes. It makes my eyes wet too. After her fourth teardrop, we both look away. 

PART FOUR - SLOW MOTION WALK - 30 min. 

Walking in slow motion is an exercise in balance: you have to perform every movement while aware of all the muscles of your feet and calves. When taking a step, the time between when the foot lifts off the ground and when it touches down again keeps you standing on one leg for seconds. These seconds can last for hours.

For the third time, a cycle of exhaustion comes over me. I struggle to remain standing at every step. And then I start looking at another person, sitting in a chair completely still, performing the mutual gaze exercise with another participant. Every single part of her body is motionless, like a statue. She’s not even blinking. And for the first time in the whole process I feel connected to all of the 96 people sharing the space with me: I feel the shared energy.

I push past my exhaustion and finish the slow motion walk. In different loops With varying degrees of presence, concentration and  ability during the process, the Abramovic Method ends up making me feel aware of both myself and the environment around me. 


Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015 @SESC Pompeia, São Paulo - Brazil.