In our noisy hectic world, when’s the last time you closed your eyes and thought of nothing for a good length of time – aside from trying to fall asleep on a hot summer’s night or dealing with a migraine? I imagine for those of us who don’t practise meditation may not be able to recall the last time we did this.
It’s what we’re invited to do in Marina Abramovic’s exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, where facilitators guide visitors through different scenarios. The artist doesn’t want to say anything about the experience so people come to it with a blank slate, and for that reason, I shall try to keep this review as ‘spoiler free’ as possible.
She’s decided to use facilitators trained by her rather than be involved herself as she considers involving her in the show draws attention to her and away from the work – understandable given she’s now reached art superstar status.
The experience is as stripped back as can be and Abramovic has created the environment, but it’s us the audience who create the experience as in most stops we’ll be left alone with our eyes closed and with our own thoughts before a facilitator takes us to the next stop. Where that leads you will be up to each visitor and I imagine everyone will have a different experience.
Everyone is asked to surrender phones and watches before we go in so it’s very easy to lose track of time and that’s the point — it’s so rare to have an experience where we don’t know what time it is and our phone isn’t constantly buzzing away with messages, emails and other notifications.
It feels like an exhibition where those who are most addicted to their technology will get the most benefit out of it and those who are regular digital detoxers may find it less enlightening. At a time when silent retreats are big business here’s a chance to get a museum-y dose of it and I did come out feeling refreshed, even if no great revelations were revealed to me inside the gallery.
Marina Abramovic: Gates and Portals at Modern Art Oxford. 24th September – 5th March. £10 – pre-booking essential.
Photo: Thierry Bal. Copyright Modern Art Oxford.