Critics’ Picks

Marina Abramović, Counting the Rice, 2015. Performance view; table, chairs, pencils, paper, white rice, black lentils, instructions.

Marina Abramović, Counting the Rice, 2015. Performance view; table, chairs, pencils, paper, white rice, black lentils, instructions.

Hobart

Marina Abramović

Mona - Museum of Old and New Art
655 Main Road, Berriedale
June 13–October 5, 2015

Marina Abramović first came to Australia in 1979, with her partner and then collaborator Frank Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay), but it was the trip taken the following year, to spend seven months with the Pitjantjatjara people in the Great Victorian Desert, that was to inspire and inform much of her subsequent performance work as well as interest in immateriality and mindfulness. Abramović is not present in this exhibition, “Private Archeology,” but her image is everywhere, encouraging viewers to dig deeper and deconstruct the mythmaking integral to her artistic legacy.

The masochism that pervades her earlier work is barely hinted at. Instead, there are four filing cabinets containing artifacts, existential musings, and inspirational cutouts waiting to be explored as Confession, 2010, is projected on a wall close by. In an antechamber, patrons recline in deck chairs while watching the faces of 108 chanting Tibetan monks in the video projection Waterfall, 2003. A series of thirteen screens displaying Abramović’s face in close-up enshrine another darkened room for Video Portrait Gallery, 1997. Each is a window into a slightly different iconoclastic self; a pertinent lesson in self-actualization in an age obsessed with celebrity and fascinated by sight.

An alchemical process occurs in the labyrinth beneath the museum for Counting the Rice, 2015, wherein willing participants are clothed in white laboratory coats and noise-canceling headphones before being asked to count piled-up lentils and rice. This final act functions as a send-off, an instruction in the Abramović Method whereby the body serves as a conduit for connection and the artistic process a means through which to challenge the experience of life.