26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/09/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals Review
We take a visit to the legendary performance artist's two exhibitions, showing Modern Art Oxford and the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum...

When Marina Abramović walked along the Great Wall of China in 1988, she became an artwork herself, as viewed by her audiences on a wall. But for an artist renowned for her presence, her latest work is rather characterised by her absence. In Gates and Portals, Abramović’s performance in – and as – the art is substituted for yours.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Soft-spoken facilitators trained in ‘the Abramović method’ usher visitors around three different rooms. Slowly and purposefully, you’re hand-held to stand beneath rose-gold door frames, in masking-taped squares facing the wall, or to lie on the floor. Through your noise-cancelling headphones, you’re instructed to close your eyes, leaving you at their whim, until you’re tapped, gently, to move on. (For those tempted to open their eyes, a blindfold in the second room does the job.)

Passing through a crystal portal into the final room, you either stand or lay some more. That final stage, seemingly lasting an age, only ends when you’re guided towards the exit. Phones and watches left at the door, you’re deprived of all sense of time. (Given that your hands are held by the facilitators and your eyes are closed for most of the experience, I can’t imagine how you’d use them much anyway.)

Marina Abramović, Time Energizer, from the series Transitory Objects (2000/2012)

Abramović might not approve of my sharing these spoilers; ‘It’s like a Hitchcock film,’ she says, before ushering our press junket upstairs, ‘I don’t want to spoil the ending.’ Each individual makes a different journey – one that sometimes reminded me of standing for service in Orthodox churches, and at others of my childhood disobedience, forced to face the wall and contemplate my actions. 

Gates and Portals is certainly minimal, leaving us to dwell upon the tiniest details (did I hear a passing train?). Perhaps it’s more telling of my inability to meditate that I quickly became bored, tired, and had to actively stop my mind from wandering. The seriousness of the silence is broken by the smallest of human interactions, like my quiet crouching, helping the facilitator to reach and blindfold my head.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

Ready sceptics of performance art are probably already thinking this is a joke. (Though pioneering women in performance art are enjoying a strong curatorial moment, with the excellent Carolee Schneemann currently on show at the Barbican.) Many more will be disappointed that the artist is not herself present. Quotes from the artist peppering the space warn that this experience won’t change us – and indeed, we might even hate it.

But it embodies Abramović’s belief that performance art cannot exist without its public, and that more than participation, they are part of the artwork itself. In conversation before the exhibition, she explained how her celebrity has become an obstacle for her own practice, as ‘participants’ are too distracted taking pictures to truly take part. It’s testament to her thorough thought process – one that understands that it isn’t technology, but our obsession with it, that it is the problem.

Sensory deprivation is central to Gates and Portals, enhancing our other senses and cognition and posing questions around accessibility in art more widely. Its avowedly site-specific nature is questionable. Your thoughts can’t help but wonder why you got this specific path, this specific journey. Are you special?  

Relieved of so much stimulation, I observed the other participants during the long walks between doors and squares. In such a dependent environment, would others exercise agency whenever it presented itself, simply to maintain some control, like skipping the optional video mid-way? 

On the whole, my group was relatively compliant. But will others dissent, and walk out? Or does the courage to protest depend on community organisation – a near impossible task in the silence? And will others share and compare their individual journeys outside the door too?

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals (installation view)

‘It blew my mind.’ The artist is actually more excited by her companion piece, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Like her last Oxford exhibition, Objects Performance Video Sound (1995), she was invited to move around the museum space, and allow the objects to ‘choose her’. Her intense interactions with their energies were shot over the course of a day in a video entitled ‘Presence and Absence’.

Viewers are invited to ‘become Marina Abramović’ by following her object trail, and study drawings (unsigned, another absence). Little connects them, though most objects reference femininity, witchcraft, and her Slavic roots. The Ukrainian Kamyana Baba, with its strong thighs and small breasts, spoke to her. So too The Witch’s Ladder of her video, which she copied and inscribed in Cyrillic, an alphabet also used in her native Yugoslavia. 

Encased in glass, a slightly more recent addition amongst the PRM’s nineteenth century cabinets, Abramović’s video and image reflects around the space. For the first time, she’s everywhere. Just fifty years old, her case first housed a Tibetan temple, and enables her to stare at a statue of the Buddha directly opposite – a nod to her particular interest in Asian religions.

Abramović has spent a considerable amount of time amongst spiritual communities, including those in Shamanic Siberia and Aboriginal Australia. They’re united by their beliefs in the role individuals play in guiding each other throughout states of transition – an implicit, unstated connection between these two disparate exhibitions.

Still from Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence (2022)

At 76 years old, Abramović maintains a busy schedule of travel, though it’s at the PRM where she feels most at home. Her intervention comes as we consider the colonial legacies of such objects, and who has the authority to own, display, mystify, and other them. The artist is unexpectedly silent on the issue.

Conscious of the public culture, curator Professor Clare Harris assured the group that the PRM has always engaged with decoloniality and Indigenous knowledge, and that it’s just now making its work more public. ‘The weirdest objects are English,’ she remarks, and highlights how since its establishment in 1884, the PRM has curated and organised by function, not geography, to facilitate the comparison of human experiences. 

Marina Abramović is the most prestigious artist to partner with the PRM, and they’re keen to honour her wish, lending the installation for her career-spanning 2023 Royal Academy exhibition. She will be the first woman to have a solo exhibition across the RA’s entire main galleries, continuing her pioneering representation, including of her Yugoslav heritage. ‘India? South America? Wherever they’ll invite me,’ she responds, when I ask her where the shows belong, and where they will go next.  But for now, they stay here.

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals is on view at Modern Art Oxford until 5 March 2023, and at Pitt Rivers Museum until 2 April 2023.

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