This presentation examines Marina Abramović’s performance, 512 Hours (Serpentine Gallery, London, 2014) as a catalyst for thinking about forms of criticality needed to respond to contemporary conditions of neoliberal culture. I ask what kind of criticality, if any, is generated by the project and how this is informed by the artist’s history of ‘endurance performances’, which test the limits of her bodily and emotional strength. In this pared down performance Abramović was present in the gallery between 10am-6pm, six days a week between 11 June and 25 August. Building on her critically acclaimed 2010 performance at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Artist Is Present, much was made in the weeks preceding 512 Hours of the idea of doing nothing with Abramović. However, as with many performances in which it appears that nothing is happening, 512 Hours was replete with expectation and reminded participants that not being busy is not the same as doing nothing. In this presentation, I examine what this realization can offer as a critique of neo-liberal imperatives to produce tangible outcomes, act in a purposeful way and measure productivity.
512 Hours is an intensely affective performance. It invited participants to slow down and dispense with the pressures of everyday life. Drawing on Jennifer Doyle’s brilliant critique of art criticism’s derogatory attitude towards ‘feelings’, my intention here is to fold argument into experience of the performance and to suggest that the emotional aspect of 512 Hours is not detached from its critical potential. By focussing on one performance in detail, my aim is to explore Abramović’s use of slowness as a medium with which to engage affectively with others. My hypothesis is that this slowness opens up a new approach to criticality, which takes generosity and shared time as its key drivers.