Marina Abramovic Tucked Me In to Bed

by Paddy Johnson on December 3, 2014 Art Fair

The Marina Abramovic Institute at Art Basel Miami

The Marina Abramovic Institute at Art Basel Miami

Getting to Art Basel Miami Beach this year has been no less than harrowing. I spent nearly six hours in Newark waiting for mechanical issues be resolved on the plane I took; that was followed by a flight ending with turbulence extreme enough to injure a flight attendant. When I arrived at my hotel, I had a severe headache that lasted through the night and well into today.

So this morning, when I saw the Marina Abramovic Institute’s booth full of people resting on cots with colored sheets at Art Basel, I was perhaps more charitable than I might normally be towards the project. It’s an aestheticized bed station for the poor rich people who have shopped and partied so hard they need a rest.

Abramovic herself was there, although she was mostly speaking to the press and potential funders. Knowing a little about Abramovic’s history of using performers, I asked the if the cots were only for her team. She responded earnestly, in her deep Slavic voice, “No, this is for you.”

I felt giddy. This is an artist who has the affection and attention of a seamlessly endless line of fans and super stars. Bjork made the MoMA open early so she, her husband and her kid could stare at Marina Abramovic in The Artist Is Present. Lady Gaga got naked to help Abramovic raise money to build her Institute. Jay Z invited her to dance in his music video “Picasso Baby.” Just last week I pulled up Netflix only to see that Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, a 2012 documentary on the artist, was on their most-watched list. The streaming website has over 50 million subscribers.

“People spend seven days rushing around here,” she told me. “It’s so necessary. You do this several times a day and it’s done.” I figured I’d try it.

I felt ashamed for my giddiness. This is an artist who is trying to raise money for an institute that will teach people to look at her art better. A main selling point of the Abramovic Method is that they will surround your rested head with crystals.

I put my wallet and cell phone in the locker—Abramovic instructed me that it was especially important to put away the cell.  Then she walked me over to the cot, and tucked me into bed.

Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to discern that the Marina Abramovic Center’s sleep center at Art Basel Miami Beach is pandering to the rich—you only have to have heard about it—but my experience wasn’t wholly dismissible. Sure, the bright lights of the gallery and the constant clicking of some press person’s camera beside my head disrupted my rest, but through the headphones I could hear Abramovic’s soft voice—a murmur, now—and the firm cot was more comfortable than the bed in my hotel. And it was very nice to be tucked in. After 15 minutes of lying there, my headache was gone. That’s not quite enough to call the work a success, but from where I sit, she at least deserves a thank you.

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