In anticipation of the 2014 opening of the Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performing Art—a nonprofit organization in Hudson, New York with the mission of disseminating and supporting long-duration performance art—performing artist Marina Abramović and architect Shohei Shigematsu, a Principal of OMA, will discuss their collaboration. With Sanford Kwinter. Organized in association with the Harvard University Committee on the Arts (HUCA).
[From the Architects' Statement]
The mission of the MAI is to cultivate new kinds of performance while functioning as a living archive, preserving and hosting performances of historic pieces. Abramović plans to use the space as a laboratory for exploring time-based and immaterial art – including performance, dance, theater, film, video, opera, and music – through collaboration with practitioners in the realms of science, technology, and education. Working with the local Hudson community as well as schools and institutions from around the world, the MAI will host workshops, public lectures and festivals. In order to simultaneously engage the existing structure and limit its predetermination of the performance space, a new volume is placed within the existing building’s shell. This new space provides a monastic ground that is both highly flexible and controlled. Three areas around the theater allow it to expand or be reconfigured: an overlook point, a rehearsal space that can also function as a stage or backstage area, and the vertical foyer, which can be used as a spill-out zone for the main theater or allow for visitors to look back into the performance space. As well as training artists, Abramović also wants to train audiences in the mental and physical disciplines of creating and experiencing long-durational work. Visitors at the MAI will be introduced to the Abramović Method, training in the mental and physical focus required of observing long duration. Through the Method, the audience enacts a performance observed by other visitors. An individual stage is replaced by a diversity of vantage points that allow for multiple viewer/performer configurations. The audience must also ‘stay connected’ to the performance while satisfying basic needs (feeding, socializing, working) that arise in the course of six hours. ‘Intermissions,’ that might otherwise be a distraction were reconceived as an extension of the performance experience. Fostering this continuous connection means undoing the conventional isolation of the performance space from non-theater programs (like café, bookstore, library, and foyer). Liberated from its typical containment, the audience is free to drift between different activities without leaving the domain of the performance. These activities are sorted into a series of programmatic towers each defined by a shared domain. Like parts of the body, their segregation allows for a more effective whole. In order to facilitate sustained access to the performance, the towers form a wrapper of public amenities and educational spaces around the central white box. The institute will be housed in a former theatre in Hudson, New York, the birthplace of the Hudson River School, the first American Movement, which later became an indoor tennis court, then an antiques warehouse and market before falling into disrepair. Abramović bought the theatre in 2007. OMA’s design will enhance the existing structure to accommodate both the research and production of performance art. As a venue specifically created for long duration performances, OMA will also develop new types of furniture, lighting and other elements to facilitate the viewing of such works.