I never thought that approaching to something new, a new concept of art could give me the same enjoyment that I experience in front of a canvas.

It is my day off and it is extremely hot; no one would like to experience this muggy heat. I think of what I am going to do: nothing I say; after work, I need idleness. But I decide to approach with great curiosity and scepticism to a new experience and become a participant in the performance of Marina Abromovic “512 Hours” at the Serpentine Gallery in London.
Among the crowd, I try to ask the bystanders what it is, but we all share this sense of indecision and unawareness about the event. It is like wandering in a vacuum with no expectations waiting in a long line of which I do not know the duration and ignoring both the subject and the actors of this performance. It comforts us just the idea that it is free: so we are free to leave, regardless of the outcome. It is like approaching blindfolded a big surprise. In this expectation they are already outlining the concepts of what I am going to see; how long will our bodies bear the extreme heat before the curtains are open? It is an anxiety that passes from one individual to another. How do we need to behave? Laughing or subjugate to what is going to happen?  I observe this anxiety, in the puzzled looks , in the watching the clock continuously that marks the passage of time, in questioning whether it is worth continuing to wait or spend the day elsewhere for something more constructive. Without knowing it, the performance has already begun.
One by one, we cross the threshold; then it is my turn. I am told by the staff that undressing from my prejudices facilitates the understanding of events, and that I must be lucky if do not know anything either about the artist, or about this kind of art. My last recommendation is made .perhaps this is the only rule to follow. Before the event I need to leave behind my personal items, camera, mobile phone, because nothing, I think, needs to refer to reality. I forget the clock. Ah yes, especially the clock that would keep me tied to a time dimension. The time of performance is absent; I will decide how much time I want to participate.

Marina Abramović Trailer #512hours from Serpentine Galleries on Vimeo.

In a space reduced to its essentials, divided only by three large rooms, I observe different social dynamics; I see people walking, intercede at a slow pace, some alone, some in the company. There are those who, sitting with their backs to the wall, fix the void. There are quiet, waiting to be started perhaps to a messianic ritual. Others smile, others like me look at everything with curiosity.
At the centre of the room, on a platform, there are bystanders who are holding hands, with closed eyes, almost as if they were in a stadium of trance .They  breathe slowly. I observe a common denominator. There is a silence and peace between the rooms that no one dares disturb. Meanwhile, time passes by, but no one perceives it.
There are no items to make this work; we are the real (s) objects with our physical body and our metaphorical immateriality. We are stripped of what would keep us tied to the outside world. Our being is only created by our thoughts and by our presence in that place and at that precise moment. There are small mirrors that some people carry in their hands, contemplating their image. It is odd though as they do not follow a normal pace. They walk backwards like robots, zombies and they do not bother to observe others. When I try to peek their image and cross their paths “as crab”, they do not hold the look and change directions. It is as if they were afraid that their identity would be revealed. The image reminds me of the characters to Fahrenheit 451 by Truffaut.
They all look like living statues, whose movement is improvised or induced or controlled remotely. I wonder by whom, knowing that the only technological element that restores us to the surrounding reality is a camera that is watching us. This is an attempt to steal the moment to present and incubate in a temporal dimension to return it perhaps to posterity.
Then I see her. Marina Abramovic. I recognize her in the crowd of 160 people, dressed in black, with her ​​long braid and lipstick to the lips, cerulean face that refers to Callas. I watch her approaching to some of us and whispering something. Others hug and thank her. With her simple and charismatic character she holds people by the hand, places them in a corner and leads them from one room to another, suggesting them what to do. I wonder what she whispers in their ears and what pushes the participants to put into practice her input. I follow and observe her whilst she accompanies some in an adjacent room. There are only beds on which people are invited to lie in an atmosphere of complete tranquillity. The only distraction is the colour of the blankets that covers them up; blue and green against the white that is present on all the walls. There is no chromatic effect that reminds us of strong passions. The only heat is generated by sunlight through the windows. In this space only reign stasis and reflection.
People are lying on a bed wearing headphones, listening to something. Driven by curiosity I place them by my ears but I cannot hear anything but the magic sound of silence; it is as if I were sunk in the depths of the ocean and gradually moved up to the surface with eyes closed. And this is where I start to get into the “game” .Nothing distracts me; it’s time to gather my energy and find myself. Then scepticism takes me again. Is this a form of art? Who produces art? Is the artist or the viewer? The artist is present there with us and participate in her work, making us objects and subjects of this representation; it is our dynamism and our energy to create this event.
Awakened by my unbearable silence I observe Marina leaving a door behind. Then I cross the threshold. In addition to blankets, in this room there are other objects and perhaps I catch a glimpse of a bell that I wanted to use to change the dynamics and stop that moment of peace. Might it have been part of the performance of which I was also an actor? I preferred not to, but I continued to share that energy that so many others had already created. What would happen then? Perhaps the drama of the action started when I left the halls. I do not know. I just remember that he was an actor in this performance only for two hours. A unique place that allowed me to live in the transient time and enjoy the positive energy flows created at that time.
If the role of artists is to work with invisible materials, sometimes non-existent to recreate them and transform them and leave a message to users, I believe that those who have had the opportunity to enjoy the same experience in 512 hours cannot forget to have found themselves at least for a moment. And if this kind of art leads us to reflect and enrich our being, bridging the nothing with the “whole”, then it is comparable to the experience that each of us, sooner or later lived in front of the canvas of a great master. It is as if I had tasted a sense of joy with nothing, in the extreme simplicity of my actions. Marina Abramovic has definitely found another follower for her “cult”.

A proposito dell'autore

Giancarlo Napolitano si è laureato in lingue e letterature straniere presso la facoltà di lingue dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, discutendo una tesi letteraria di natura sperimentale sugli spazi e i tempi nell'Assommoir di Emile Zola, rivisitando il romanzo in chiave psicanalitica. Ha sempre nutrito un vivo interesse per l'arte, in particolare per quella rinascimentale. Vive da anni a Londra e ha potuto coltivare questa passione con continue visite alla National gallery che ha sempre considerato come una sua seconda dimora. Di carettere inquisitivo si interroga sulle opere degli artisti, continuo assertore del progresso, vede in ogni opera contemporanea un ponte con il passato con il quale rapportare ogni sua esperienza quotidiana.