I can already picture the scene: It's the afternoon of Friday, March 7, and crowds of people are flooding the Onassis Cultural Center to catch a glimpse of Marina Abramovic, the controversial and thought-provoking performance artist. The public has a thirst for Abramovic, one I experienced in Athens when she put on a show at the Kappatos Gallery and I remember personally from a lecture she delivered in 2010 at Tate Modern. That same year, hundreds of New Yorkers stood in line for hours to see her in “The Artist is Present” at MoMA, feeling the same anxiety I felt when I crossed the threshold of her Manhattan apartment for an interview on that occasion.
Yes, Abramovic is a star, though not in the way that a singer or an actor enjoys the attention of fans, but because she exudes such a powerful sense of spiritually. You feel that her experiences have given her wisdom and enlightenment and that she shares it with her audience, with you personally, even if you are among hundreds.
This time, our interview was held over the phone. She was at her office in New York a few days before coming to Greece for a discussion with Zvonimir Dobrovic, founder and program director of the Queer Zagreb festival, on her method and on the establishment of the Marina Abramovic Institute.
I couldn't help but ask whether she would make reference to Greece and the crisis in particular as part of her presentation. He response was immediate: “I was born in 1946 in the former Yugoslavia and I feel that ever since I remember my country has been in crisis. My country has been in much more of a crisis and for much longer than yours, so I don't think it will have anything to do with my speech at all.”
Consciousness is key for Abramovic. “What I am trying to do is to help human beings help themselves and be much more conscious about themselves and about the decisions they make in their lives.”
Back on the issue of the Greek crisis, all Abramovic has to say on the matter is that Greeks need to come to terms with their share of responsibility. “You are so responsible in many ways for your crisis,” she says, citing reports of wealthy Greeks who took their money out of the country when the economy started to go downhill.
“People have to look at why things happen. It's not my business why the Greeks do not care about their country and why they're doing this to themselves,” Abramovic added.
She says that her lecture is about showing people how she has been able to achieve a greater level of consciousness. It is all about spiritual responsibility, she says.
“I can't save the world. I can only show how I do it... Art can't change the world; only we can, individuals. The first thing you need to ask yourself when you wake up in the morning is: What am I here for? What is my function? Before politics, before anything, we need to ask this question. You have to be clear on your purpose in life and to do it honestly,” Abramovic says.
The artist has spent the past few years trying to get the Marina Abramovic Institute (MIA) off the ground in Hudson, just two hours away from New York City. The institute will “bring together art, science, poetry and spirituality,” she says, explaining that part of her Athens presentation will be about the process of raising funds for big projects such as this, “without it being dirty money, without involving big corporations.”
“All that stays when you die is a good idea,” she says about her hopes for the MIA. “You can't take all the bullshit with you.”
The discussion, which starts at 7 p.m. (Greek time), can be followed live in Greek and English at the following link: