In a recorded Skype interview between Marina Abramovic and critic Hans Ulrich Obrist, the two discuss Abramovic’s initial ideas while curating Immaterial for Paddle8. Taking place between New York and London, the long-time friends brought us insights on their current projects, inspirations, and views of the future. (It may take a moment for the video to load)
Marina Abramovic: Wow, technology is a miracle!
Hans Ulrich Obrist: YOU are a miracle!
M: I just came from Russia; it’s amazing what they are doing with technology there. We have to go to Novosibirsk.
H: How did it go in The Garage?
M: Yes, I had a show, double the size of MoMA, and much better than MoMA. This is the biggest show of my life, huge! I’ve never had such a big show ever.
H: So it was good to work with them.
M: It was really crazy, very very good.
H: They’re amazing, really great.
M: And very efficient too, the crew is fantastic. You know I made a scientific experiment. It was really interesting. You don’t have video, I don’t see you.
H: You don’t see me?
M: Do you see me? Yes, we see each other!
H: Yes ,I can see you! You look wonderful.
M: Okay, we have to talk about IMMATERIAL today.
H: Absolutely, we are going to talk about IMMATERIAL and about Skype and this is a new interview. The first interview we’ve done since our interview book came out, it’s a new beginning.
Your retrospective, The Artist is Present has just opened in Moscow, you came back yesterday. It would be good to talk a little bit about Moscow and the biggest show that you have ever done [waving arms wide] to see all this work together.
M: You know Hans, it was a little bit like dying. First, it was very very much work to put together the work, and to train re-performers, about fifty of them, to re-perform the pieces. When I finished this and I went to see the show, it was so strong impression. I had this kind of feeling of dissatisfaction, sadness and also this strange feeling, that if I had to die, in what would be the best moment to die, and it would be right after this show. It’s like you’ve done everything, and I have to see this as a burial, and a new beginning. To me, from now on, I have to be reborn again. Because I could not do anything more or anything less, everything that I made and I stand for, is in this show. The MoMA didn’t have enough space, a different strategy, different work. Here [in Moscow] I had very much an emphasis on the work that the audience had to use. In MoMA we didn’t have this, and this was really for me is absolutely necessary, to complete the idea of the public performing and the artist performing. And somehow all of the concept, everything I stand for is there. I was thinking to myself that I was going to die. And it was so sad, I went through a depression. I came back here 2 days ago, and I was in bed, and I feel really that kind of emptiness which I didn’t have time for with MoMA because I was performing. There I didn’t have a moment to crash down, to be in this black hole – and that’s where I am at the moment. But apart from this, I want to tell you about Moscow, the most interesting for me was meeting with scientists in Russia, because I was doing scientific experiments with the brain, which as incredible. And we had such interesting visual material.
H: Can you tell me more about this collaboration with scientists?
M: After The Artist is Present, the Sakov Foundation – the neuroscientists – became interested in me. They put an AG cap on my head together with the person [in the performance piece at MoMA] who was sitting in front of me, so we could really completely focus on the brain activity. And we could see and measure the alpha, beta, theta, mega waves that the brain produces, and now we are collecting this data. Because visually, we can see what the brain does. It shoots this kind of information, it looks like light webs in the space. It’s amazing. So we can visualize actual activity of the brain, which is a completely new thing. Even if we think we are not thinking, we are sending messages. It means we are producing this enormous network around the globe, which is invisible, which is immaterial but actually existing. And then I started talking more to the scientists, and then I started meeting more people who are futurists. Not the futurist of the 20s, 30s, 40s, the futurists of today who are actually interested in the how the future will look in 2050, 2080, how society is going to look, how our life is going to look, how architecture is going to look. And now they are busy making some kind of mega computer which is going to be in orbit outside of our planet. If we have a chip in our brains, we can connect ourselves to this universal computer and we don’t need to Google anymore because we can actually Google in our brain. I mean this is all new things! And everything is invisible, immaterial.
H: That leads to one of my favourite topics, which is the future. What is the future? Can you tell me about the future?
M: I really think that for me, the future, it’s a monstrous concept in front of us. It’s very interesting that you, Hans, have been interviewing people who are very old, at 80, 90, 100 years, beyond, because this is like the kind of brains of the past civilization, and now we have to see the brains of the new civilization. I think that we are really talking about science fiction here. Everything with science fiction become the reality, humans are becoming machines, and we’re going to be these machines.
I just saw this documentary about this guy who created these robots in Switzerland. He put a chip in his head, and it took him only six weeks for his brain to learn how to control the robot – just through this magnetic element he has in his body. So we’re really talking about a completely new behaviour, a new technology, the new mind. What do you think? What is your idea? Because you’ve been very busy with this… I think that [the future] is something that is inconceivable. We are going to live a new reality that is totally virtual.
H: Marina, let me just tell you a story because it is so interesting that you’re talking about Russian scientists, and that you met the them in Moscow now that you’re talking about Futurism because interestingly, about 10-15 years ago, I went to Krakow to interview the great science fiction writer, Stanislaw Lem. Lem wrote Solaris, The Futurological Congress and many other books.
M: Yes, he’s the most important pioneer of science fiction.
H: I arrived in his house, and I obviously made the big mistake to talk about Tarkovsky, he didn’t like Tarkovsky [Russian filmmaker and theorist]. He got very upset that I quoted Tesla. He said, “Tesla is a reference from the past, and it’s not the future. Tesla is the past!” So Tesla and Tarkovsky really upset him. But what was interesting was his house was filled with science books from Russia and science magazines. Russian science literature was so advanced that actually these science magazines were REALLY science fiction. So it’s interesting that you also have been working with Russian scientists, going to science fiction.
M: We really have to go to Novosibirsk together. We have to go to the Institute of Parapsychology. They are really dealing with these interesting matters which so many American scientists ignore because, for them, it is just too science fiction. But I think that the Russian scientists are really much farther than the Americans in this kind of thing.
H: Let’s talk more about the future! Obviously, because this notion of the future, a curator cannot predict the future of art. Artists have many antennas and curators can be close to artists and then see the future through the artists. I’ve ask a lot of artists to tell me about the future, and I have this long list, which is seen on this poster.
And it so starts with:
The future will be chrome
The future will be curved
The future will be “in the name of the future”
The future will be so subjective
The future will be bouclette
The future will be curious
The future will be obsolete
The future will be asymmetric
The future will be a slap in the face
The future will be delayed
The future does not exist but in snapshots
The future will be tropical
Future? …you must be mistaken
The future will be overgrown and decayed
The future will be tense
Zukunft ist lecker
Zukunft ist wichtiger als Freizeit
Helmut Kohl (proposed by Carsten Höller)
A future fuelled by human waste
The future is going nowhere without us.
The future is now – the future is it
The future is one night, just look up
The future will be a remake…
Didier Fiuza Faustino
The future is what we construct from what we remember of the past – the present is the time of instantaneous revelation
The future is this place at a different time.
The future will be widely reproduced and distributed
The future will be whatever we make it
The future will involve splendour and poverty
The future is uncertain because it will be what we make it
The future is waiting – the future will be self-organized
Raqs Media Collective
Dum Spero/ While I breathe, I hope
This is not the future
The future is a dog/ l’avenir c’est la femme
Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
On its way; it was here yesterday
The future will be an armchair strategist, the future will be like no snow on the broken bridge
The future always flies in under the radar
Suture that future
‘To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow’ (Shakespeare)
The future is overrated
Cerith Wyn Evans
futuro = $B!g(B
The future is a large pharmacy with a memory deficit
The future will be bamboo
Tay Kheng Soon
The future will be ousss
The future will be…grains, particles & bits.
The future will be…ripples, waves & flow.
The future will be…mix, swarms, multitudes.
The future will be…the future we deserve but with some surprises, if only some of us take notice.
In the future…the earth as a weapon…
Allora & Calzadilla
The future is our excuse.
Joseph Grigely and Amy Vogel
The future will be repeated.
Ok, ok I’ll tell you about the future; but I am very busy right now; give me a couple of days more to finish some things and I’ll get back to you.
Future is instant
Yung Ho Chang
‘The future is not.’
The future is private
The future will be layered and inconsistent
The future is a piano wire in a pussy powering something important
In the future perhaps there will be no past
The future was
The future is menace
The future is a forget-me-not
The future is an knowing exchange of glances
The future: Scratching on things I could disavow.
The future is our own wishful thinking.
Le futur est un étoilement
The future is now
The future has a silver lining
The future is now and here
THE FUTURE? SEE YOU THERE!
AS ARTISTS WE WANT TO HELP TO FORM OUR TOMORROWS.
WE HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.
ITS GOING TO BE MARVELOUS.
LONG LIVE THE FUTURE WITH LOTS OF LOVE
ALWAYS AND ALWAYS
The future is without you
The future is a season.
The future is a poster
We have repeated the future out of existence
The future has two large beautiful eyes
less, few tours in my future
Future is what it is.
Huang Yong Ping
The future is the very few years we have remaining before all time becomes one time.
FUTURE MUST BE HERE TODAY
Future is more freedom
My art is very free, I don’t know what to do in the future. But I am positive.
The future is inside.
Shumon Basar, Markus Miessen, Åbäke
NO FUTURE – PUNK IS NOT DEATH !
The future will be grim if we don’t do something about it.
The future is reflexive and coming together
The future is listening
The future lies in the unknown
What the future is, you only know next morning
Die Zukunft kann man nur ueber Nacht definieren
The future is a disease
future >< past
Since the origin’s origin, life precedes death, wherefrom the future.
The future is a record on skip
The future is 10k years long. In that context “seize the century” sort of makes sense.
The future is unthinkable
M: I have to say something about the future…
H: Yes, I want to know what is your future! We urgently need need to get your future for the list, Marina, so I thought this interview is a great context to get your future [waving arms widely].
M: Okay, this is what I think. Future is already here. And is completely out of our control.
H: Beautiful, Marina. “Future [writing down] is already here, and is completely out of our control.” So we can add it to the list, I am so excited!
H: Hello! Can you see me?
M: I see you. Ok, perfect. The future, it’s there and it does exist. So lets talk more about the immateriality of the future. It’s all about immateriality, because it’s about something you can’t touch, you can’t reach but you can feel it. How do you perceive immateriality? What do you think for you is immateriality, and I’ll tell you what it means for me.
H: Yes, I was thinking this morning, when I was preparing for the interview, that we need to talk about you and curating, because this is not the first time that you curate an exhibition, but we can talk about what it’s like to curate something for the internet. But, interestingly, when we talk about the immaterial, I always think about Lucy Lippard’s book about The Dematerialization of Art. And also from our many interviews that we did before, where you talk about the idea that so many
things are more important for you than the object. Art can travel through different ways, art can travel through an object, it can travel through a quasi-object. Like Michel Serres says, there are quasi-objects like the football is a quasi-object, it only makes sense if we play with it and use it. It doesn’t make sense as an object-object, so these are quasi- objects, and then we have the non-objects, which are immaterial works. But for today I thought it would be interesting to talk about your way of curating of IMMATERIAL.
M: Yes, well for the very first time that I was invited from someone professional, it was the director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, what is his name? You remember it, Declan McGonagle! He sent me an email that said “I would like you to curate a international performance exhibition” and this was the first time that someone from a museum asked me to curate something, and I took it really seriously. I made this exhibition, and the catalogue, I remember, was just a video-cassette because I thought it was ridiculous to make something static like a book for performance. So the catalogue was not a DVD, but a VHS cassette at the time, and everyone had 5 minutes to put their work on it – instead of five pages, they each had five minutes to put it on there, in the order that they wanted and how they wanted to be presented. And, then after this, I did a lot of work with my students who are curating exhibitions here and there. And I really think that artists can actually curate. I remember Maurizio Cattelan who had an incredibly successful biennale in Berlin, which was really curated by an artist. Or the a few things curated by Mike Kelly, because this is another way of seeing art, different from what a curator would see, and another form of perception.
Paddle8 was interesting to me for two different reasons: because it is virtual so it’s something already immaterial AND then to make immaterial the proposal, artists who are doing things that are not object related, so this was the starting point to think about the concept. Of course, my old reference was always Yves Klein selling the artistic sensibility, selling the invisible piece of Gino de Dominicis’s, and what do you sell when you talk about invisible, immaterial, because sometimes the idea is so much more valuable for the history of art, than the object itself, and that is really, actually priceless. We have to deal with this in a different way, especially for the art market and the collectors. We need to educate them that actually they can buy the idea, and not necessarily the work itself. That’s the whole thing, and to see if the internet can help with this.
H: Let’s talk a little bit more about your previous exhibitions – Declan McGonagle invited you to curate in Dublin, and then you had the project where Nancy Spector asked you to do at the Guggenheim, and then, there was the project in Manchester, where Alex Poots and I had invited you two and half years ago, which was “Marina Abramovic Presents”. All of these projects had to do with immateriality. In a sense, that you had to go through instruction, through recipes, like a musical score and approached the idea of how a piece can be redone. Let’s talk a little more about this, because all of these shows you curate, seem to have a rule of the game. Your show in New York had to do with the idea of you actually RE-doing pieces by other artists.
While in Manchester it had to do with this idea of inviting a certain number of artists who were present for a duration, for a certain amount of time and you giving The Drill. Richard always told me that an exhibition has to invent a new display feature, but it also needs to invent a new rule of the game.
M: No, there we come to this whole thing that I think is the most interesting, the place where I invented this new rule of the game is the public drill. As we remember, all good things about the drill. What I understood, especially from performance, is that the attention of the public is extremely small. The public will just stroll through the different exhibitions without much attention, for a few minutes and then walk away, without a large amount of concentration, especially if the performance is very minimal and hardly anything is happening. To understand it you really need to spend time in a different type of concentration – the public doesn’t have this kind of concentration. So the rule of the game for Manchester came from the other curating experiences and how I saw the lack of attention, that actually, I have to really create a situation where the public have to be really reprogrammated. There has to be something different, where they have to deal with time and attention in a different way than they deal with normally, and this is why Manchester was so important.
Immaterial, curated by Marina Abramovic ends November 30