Marina Abramovic @ The Serpentine Gallery

June 17, 2014


I am very sceptical of anything classed as modern art. White blank canvases, videos of people chopping off their genitals, installation pieces... call me uncultured, but I just don't get it. The Tate Modern is one of my least favourite places in the world - give me a Degas or a Monet any day. 

So naturally, when Katherine suggested going to Marina Abramovic's exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, I knew absolutely nothing about it. To avoid looking completely unintelligent, I had a quick google - her Wikipedia page says this: "Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind." Sounds like modern art nonsense to me. However, the exhibition is free and I love any excuse for a trip to Hyde Park, so I decided to give it a go. 

Further research found that the 67 year old Serbian artist's previous work included recording her stabbing herself with a knife, rewatching it and trying to do it again; inhaling smoke so she lost consciousness; and encouraging the audience to do whatever they wished to her with a variety of weapons that she had laid out for them. Luckily, the new exhibition, 512 Hours, was a little more tame. 

There is very little information given to you before you go in, which is precisely how Abramovic designed it, and having heard stories of people being reduced to tears, or even fainting in the queue in anticipation, we were a little nervous as to what the exhibition would entail. After a half an hour queue (probably best to go on a weekday) we were ushered through to the locker room, where we were required to leave all coats, bags, electrical items and watches. From there, we were free to wander in. 

Essentially, its a big, white, silent room. That's all. The audience are really the exhibition, and at first glance there are people everywhere who all seem to be taking part. Some are walking backwards holding mirrors, some are staring in silence at a blank wall and some are, oddly, sat in chairs and swathed in a variety of multi coloured blankets. All very bizarre.

After about 3 minutes of looking very confused, bemused and, in my case, sceptical, a woman in black approached me and handed me a mirror, whispering the words: "Reality is an illusion", and told me to walk backwards and hold it. I felt like I had very little choice but to do just that, and, feeling like a bit of an idiot, I did. 

Marina herself wanders round, like a sort of ethereal old relative that you've always been a little scared of, quietly telling people what to do. She gently takes the hands of some, pulling them into a side room and demonstrating that they must walk very slowly. Soon, the entire room is full of couples holding hands and walking at a snails pace, in silence. 
Others (including me, once I had got bored of walking backwards - which was surprisingly quickly after a few near misses with people out of my line of vision) are taking to a room full of chairs, where they are guided to sit down, wrapped in a blanket and given what I can only describe as a mildly comforting shoulder massage. 

I'm still not entirely sure what the point of it was. When we left, after about 45 minutes, I had an intense headache, my contact lenses had dried up from all the staring and I had nearly fallen asleep about three times. However, although surreal, it was oddly calming. After the initial awkwardness at the strangeness of the situation had passed, there is something very peaceful about being a room full of strangers, and all being part of the performance. Would I pay for it? Probably not. Would I want to go again? I doubt it; however, if you're stuck for something cheap and cultural to do in London, go for it. It is quite the experience. 

The exhibition runs Tuesday - Sunday until the 25th August. 
Full link here: http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/marina-abramovic-512-hours



Dear Daddy...

June 15, 2014



I have to confess that today, I've not been a great daughter. Father's Day seems to have got lost somewhere between juggling three jobs, packing up my room and moving home and binge watching the second season of Orange is the New Black. I haven't managed to pick up a card (and even if I had, I couldn't afford to post it) and I haven't managed to make it home to cook him dinner - sorry about that, Dad. 


However, today doesn't deserve to go unnoticed - what would I do without the man who managed to infuriate me by waking me up for school with two sharp knocks on my bedroom door and the words "time to make a move-y" every morning without fail? Or ask me every night after dinner if I want a drink, only to tell me to make it myself? 


From building sandcastles on Bournemouth beach as a child, learning to ride a bike (which took two consecutive years, after I gave up the first time) and later, learning to drive, I can firmly say that Dad has taught me most of what I know. How to roll up a sleeping bag and fit it in the tiny bag it comes with? No problem. Putting up a tent? Easy. Make the perfect scrambled eggs? Check. 


Patient, easy-going and calm are three things you probably had to be to raise me, and Dad's got them down to the ground. The time I parked my little Polly the Polo so badly on a step that its chassis got wedged onto the concrete and its back wheels were hanging in the air was resolved easily, with only a slightly exasperated look over at me afterwards, shaking and convinced I'd broken my car. 
Similarly, there can't be many fathers who would pick their very drunk 16 year old daughters up at 1am from a house party, have them throw up all down the side of the car on the motorway, and move on without a word of admonition. I can only assume he felt the hangover was punishment enough - he was right. I haven't drunk two bottles of wine in a row through a straw since. I'm not sure I ever really thanked him for that - so, thanks Dad. And thanks for your patience when teaching me to drive (and footing the bill when I failed the first two tests), teaching me the difference between a good wine and a bad one and indulging in my various failed attempts at having a hobby (remember the clarinet? And the bass guitar? Or that time I took up fencing?) 


But mostly, for your words of encouragement. This first year at uni hasn't been as easy as I hoped - as it turns out, I should have listened to you when you told me not to do Law in the first place. (Why is it you always know best?) 
Talking it through with you has always put it back in perspective when I felt like giving up - and when that didn't work, taking me for expensive wine and a Brick Lane curry on your occasional trips to London usually did the trick! 


So, as irritating as I find you jogging my chair when I'm leaning back, using "that's bright" as a compliment for every new piece of clothing I buy, or telling my that my hair looks exactly the same after spending four hours in the hairdressers, fanks Dad.



Happy Father's Day - see you later, Alligator.