I was slightly terrified on my way to the Serpentine Galleries; live, participatory art is not usually on the top of my list of exhibitions to visit. But I was sure I could survive a few empty white walls and some people.
So what is actually happening in this empty gallery? Not much. There are some wooden chairs, some hand mirrors and 160 people in the audience (the art?). They’re all sitting, standing, walking, walking reeeeally slowly or walking reeeeally slowly backwards.
After a little while I notice people all dressed in black whispering or leading people by the hand. I guess these are exhibition staff and Marina Abramovic is among them. I don’t see anyone refusing to be led or anyone who doesn’t seem totally into it all.
I just end up walking through the three rooms like a normal person at normal person pace feeling a little out of place amongst those staring intently at walls or holding up mirrors to aid their backwards walking.
I stopped and did a bit of staring myself – at people’s shoes, at their facial expressions, at the walls they are staring at. I didn’t really feel in the mood to get meditative, I am far too introspective as it is, so I hung around kinda waiting for one of the mysterious people or even Marina herself to come take my hand.
And then someone did. But she wasn’t dressed in black and was carrying an exhibition flyer, presumably she was just another visitor who was properly getting into the spirit. So we walked hand in hand, slow step after slow step across the gallery floor.
When we unhanded I kept up the slow zombie walk and it seemed as hard to start walking normally as it had been to slow down when I first entered. As I found myself near the entrance a couple walked in and gave me the same stare I’d given the slow walkers when I first entered – confusion, wanting to understand, interest, definitely trying to work me out. So I guess I had become the art – was that it?
I don’t know, but I quite fancy going back before the end of the show to see how it changed and see what Marina has planned for the rest of the 512 hours.
Until 25 August 2014
Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park