Marina Abramovic and Shohei Shigematsu set stage for collaboration

by Noam Dvir
“This is the future. I have a huge ambition. Ever since I was a child I wanted to change the world”, announced world renowned performance artist Marina Abramovi who, at the age of 66, decided to focus her energy and resources toward the planning and construction of the future MAI (Marina Abramovi Institute), a performance-art institute set to open in Hudson, NY in 2014.
In a lecture last week at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Abramovi shared the stage with architect Shohei Shigematsu (partner at OMA and director of its New York City office), who serves as her institute’s main architectural planner. 
As described by Shigematsu, the MAI project is situated in a former theater building, today an indoor tennis court, in Hudson’s civic center. Besides enabling Abramovi’s specific programmatic requirements, OMA is hoping that the project will ignite new arts and culture start-ups in the adjacent streets and plots of Hudson. Shigematsu described Abramovi as a “total visionary” and stated that OMA is currently involved in several arts-related projects, such as the future Quebec National Museum, a temporary structure for singer Kanye West and a second project with Ms. Abramovi, situated in the town of Centinje, Montenegro.
In her future MAI institute, Abramovi means to introduce new audiences to her “Abramovi Method”, a method in which the audience is trained to endure a performance piece lasting at least several hours.
During her one-day visit to Harvard, Abramovi invited GSD students to take part in a short workship in which she employed one of her exercises (named “Cleaning the House”). In many of her performance pieces, as well as in this exercise, ‘time’ and the ‘perception of time’ are topics she repeatedly explores and develops. Visitors coming to the MAI will be asked to sign a contract promising to ‘give’ her six hours of their time, or, as she puts it, “you give me time, I give you experience.”
“I will not run the institute”, Abramovi said, “just serve as a consultant. We are trained, in our society, to never fail. I want to create a lab for learning and experiencing, and if you fail it’s fine, it’s really OK”.
Noam Dvir (MAUD ’14) is a journalist and critic covering the architecture world for the past decade. He contributes regularly to Haaretz newspaper in Tel Aviv and various design magazines including Frame and PIN-UP