24 June – 05 July 2015
12 noon – 7pm daily
Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, Sydney
Only a few days left to catch Marina Abramovic (I can’t figure out how to put the accent over the ‘c’) if you’re living in Sydney and haven’t experienced it. If you’re going, then just go, and don’t read this review…
If you went, what did you think?
I wanted to go without knowing anything about the installation, and I’d count myself lucky that I only briefly read about two of the six parts. I won’t list each one, but in brief, the artist, with a large number of helpers, created full immersive experience, multifaceted and interconnected. Not only did we take part in the artwork, but our interaction was part of it and even visually so.
There was something haunting about watching various people slowly walking down a long edge of the space, quietly, mindfully in short footsteps.
Perhaps the simplest of the parts, where participants were placed in a tableau, some on blocks, some in chairs, and asked to close their eyes, was as powerful as any of the others. I became quiet. With the noise-reduction headphones, I could hear my heartbeat. I felt completely alone in the space, even though I knew there were many other people surrounding me. And I felt a communality in our aloneness.
Being tucked into the womb of a camp bed, in rows of camp beds, at the end of the space, was unique. Where does the mind go in these circumstances? I relaxed and felt deep calm at moments; my mind wandered at other moments; I mused, also, at the uniqueness of being tucked into this bed, in this big open space on a pier over the Harbour.
I have done exercises of looking strangers or near-strangers in the eyes; I enjoyed it so much I did it twice, and if I had wanted to, could probably have contemplated the single panels of colour that some people were placed, or placed themselves in front of. It is an exercise in time, patience, choice, connection and vulnerability. How long to meet the gaze for? How long to make the moment last? What is the other person thinking?
The part that most people talk about was sitting down to separate and count a pile of black lentils and white rice. It was more of an interesting task than I thought. What technique would I use? How would I keep track? A fellow next to me seemed to be separating them all out, without counting. I noticed most of us needed help from our pencil to separate and count the objects. I began counting right away, in groups of five for the lentils and ten for the rice grains, and at times became fascinated by the shapes of the items: how many broken parts of rice? Does one count a full grain, or each part of a grain? Had I ever really noticed how pretty a black lentil is? It was an impossible task, and at the end, the end that I chose, I’d only done a small portion of the pile. I think I counted about 500 lentils, and decided at the end that while I had written down 500 grains of rice, my system was confused and skewed.
While doing this, I mused on how we keep ourselves occupied, on whether a task is a pleasure or a burden, the differences in approaches that everyone must have brought to the task, and why were we doing it anyways? It felt to me that by having the choice to do this strange task, that it became pleasurable. While there was a simple instruction, in fact, there were no rules. No one would be grading me on the task, no one monitored it. There was something soothing and calm about doing the exercise, and most of all, I thought about how we create meaning in our lives.
Without a watch or a phone, I had no idea how long I’d stayed, but when I left, I’d been there nearly two hours. And I was sad to leave this strange, beautiful world, full of meaning, and quiet.