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Why Performance Art Is a Tool to Change Human Consciousness

Marina Abramovic is creating an institute for long durational performance.

I have been a performance artist for 40 years of my life. I have done many works that stretch the limitations of the mind and body. One example is Rhythm 0 (1974), where for six hours, I allowed the public to use me as an object. In my most recent work, The Artist Is Present (2010), at MoMA in New York, I sat for 736 hours across from anyone who wanted to sit with me. Over the course of three months, I stared into the eyes of more than 1,500 visitors. It was during this 736-hour performance that I realized the public’s immense desire to slow down and connect to themselves and to one another in a live setting. "Long durational" works like these facilitate this type of connection, but currently there is no space solely dedicated to them.

That is why I am doing a Kickstarter campaign to create an institute for long durational performance. The Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI) will be my legacy and a meeting place for art, science, technology, spirituality, and education. It will be a place where people from all races, social backgrounds, and religions can participate in, and interact with, new long durational projects. The money that is being raised on Kickstarter is for the design phase: the architects and engineers who have to make the precise architectural drawings, and also for the permits needed to begin construction on the building.


In my four decade-long career as a performance artist, I have learned so many things. First, I learned to never give up. Sometimes, from the moment that you conceive of an idea to the moment that it is realized, it takes years. So, patience and determination are essential. I also learned to follow my intuition about an idea even if I don't understand it at first. Finally, I learned that long durational performance has the largest capacity to transform both performer and audience. Performance doesn't exist without an audience. Audience and performer together complete the work.

Performance is immaterial and based on direct collective, and individual experience, and has the capacity to not only bridge science, spirituality, and technology practices, but also to change human consciousness in the process. Today, with all of the distractions we have in the world, our attention spans are limited. There is very little time to focus on one thing, let alone the things that are important. Long durational performance is a medium that invites sustained focus on one thing at a time, which is why MAI will focus on this kind of work.

Through Kickstarter, people have the opportunity to support the project in whatever way they can in its early days. Because the institute is being built for people, it is so important to create a community. We are taking the temperature of the public to see if people want and need such a place. Kickstarter is the perfect platform for this because it collapses the distance between audience and artist. If a large community supports the ideas and concepts that MAI is offering, it means that people connect to the project, and that they need this kind of place, and want to partake in its creation.

For the campaign, I am so excited about giving the rewards to people who participate. The one dollar reward is very important: I will be hugging anyone who contributes. Right now, that is almost 3,000 hugs. It is a personal thank you and a way for me to invest my time and energy in this project. I want to make the public understand how important it is for me to start this institute and to share with younger generations all my knowledge and experience.

The $10,000 dollar reward is also important. For this, you don't receive any reward and you don't get any credit. The people that give this kind of money for no reward understand the essence of what I am trying to build. There is also a neuroscience reward at $250 that is amazing. You can look at scans of my brain and the others in the experiment in Moscow, and also register to ride in a brain-powered car (created by Lauren Silbert, Jennifer Silbert, Suzanne Dikker, Matthias Oostrik, and Oliver Hess) that I hope to install in MAI's future science chamber. I love working with scientists, and that is truly what this institute is all about.

We now have just a few days left, and hope to reach our goal. Please join us on this adventure.

Images courtesy of © OMA. Video directed, edited, and produced by Milica Zec

This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.

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