Marina Abramović's Newest Performance is An App Designed To Fight Climate Change
The Rising app shows an avatar of Abramović surrounded by melting ice caps, inside a glass tank that slowly fills with water — and only we can save her by pledging to support the environment.
Marina Abramović, 2018 still from behind the scenes of 'Rising' Courtsy of Acute Art
If you’re heading to the 58th Venice Biennale next week, you better bring rubber boots — it’s expected to rain. St Mark’s Square now floods more than 60 times a year (partly because of the island is sinking, but climate change is causing sea levels to rise). It taps into all the ice collapsing from Antarctica, expected to raise sea levels by 100 feet, where cities like New York and Venice will suffer.
How do we fix climate change when there’s no way to stop it? Godmother of performance art Marina Abramović—who was in the first issue of Garage in 2011—has created an app with environmental message. The Rising app shows an avatar of Abramović surrounded by melting ice caps, inside a glass tank that slowly fills with water. We can save her by pledging to support the environment, by reducing waste, conserving energy and educating others on going green. It’s a trailblazing tactic in how it fuses online with offline—the tasks are laid out like a budgeting app or a to-do list, and each action affects your everyday life and the app.
Now, she’s showing the artwork behind this app on May 7 at Ca’ Rezzonico Gallery in Venice, presented by the Phi Center in Montreal alongside the works of Renata Morales. Abramović, who is running the Abramović Institute in upstate New York, is debuting an opera in Munich this fall called the Seven Deaths of Maria Callas and a retrospective at The Royal Academy in London for 2020—some of the new works will show at Art Basel in June. From the woman who doesn’t stop, Abramović spoke to us about following your intuition, saving the planet and how video games can be a force for change.
What scares you the most about climate change right now?
Marina Abramović: We’re denying the process as much as we can, the fact that it can happen in our lifetime. I think it’s not just my duty but everyone else’s, too. I live in America, a country with Donald Trump who thinks it doesn’t exist, this kind of problem.
You’re showing this work in Venice, as you know one of the places that will be hit the hardest with rising sea levels.
As well as New York and any place surrounded by lots of water. I think we are going to have a large amount of immigration of people affected by natural disaster of moving around the globe, trying to figure out where is the safest.
What daily actions do you take to be conscious with your consumption? I know in the game there’s many ways to educate people to make a moment of silence, save electricity, a lot of things.
Yes, I proposed seven actions. Something that shocks me is saving electricity. We use it everywhere, especially in places where it’s cheaper than others. The lights are on all day long, in summer, some places use air conditioning 24 hours. This is affecting our climate incredibly. We’re creating pollution; art pollution, noise pollution, consumption pollution. You know? We need to reduce our needs to the minimum.
Where do you suggest people to start?
We always start with ourselves, if you change yourself, you can change thousands. So, it’s mostly important to look at what you can do on your own. That’s how it works. Some people are trying to push it away, as if its not our problem, but it is our problem. Everything is inter-dependent; with plants, rocks, mountains, every living organism on the planet and us. The entire climate is disbalanced. We don’t see the big picture,
What is the main focus?
The main thing to me is how video games influence kids. That’s their tool, in this century. They’re so immersed in this video game; they can barely have conversations with their parents. Video games are mostly based on violence and destruction. They create restless minds. But if you create a video game where you save something or save somebody, then you create something positive, that can change a consciousness and direct things in a positive way. The kids are the future, not us.
Definitely! Last time I saw you was at Nabil Elderkin’s film premiere for Gully, which is all about the problem of video game violence, but you’re doing the opposite.
By the way, the movie is fantastic. It was so hardcore and honest, really dealing with issues that matter. These three kids in the film (Kelvin Harrison Jr., Charlie Plummer and Jacob Latimore), I was shocked how they’re so young, they’re babies. The more we have voices we have to speak about these issues, in film, theatre, whatever tools artists use, is important.
This all came about because I think you had a video game experience in the 1990s? It led you to believe people will change if they’re saving a character, proving how video games can be more than just violent?
That was my experience in Japan in 1998. I played this video game where you are working with the fire squad and you’re running into buildings, like an orphanage, and saving children. I remember carrying 13 babies in my hands. And being so happy! That feeling of achievement is what I like. Kids can have that. We can infiltrate their own world with positive elements.
Honestly? There’s a lot more climate change-focused and environmental art at the 58 th Venice Biennale, is this something you see more and more, that artists are working to raise awareness?
I really believe there is something about artists—intuition. Artists have a sixth sense. They have an intuition about things and events that other people don’t see. Artists feel things are going to happen. Good artwork has a prediction of the future, what’s going to happen. We’re really going into dangerous areas where the human body is going to be replaced with technology. Artists feel that.
What’s your approach?
In my case, I’m going back to simplicity. I created the Abramović method, where you count rice and walk slowly, also to walk in nature and have headphones to listen to silence. That’s important.
Do you always follow your intuition?
Yes, it’s a gut feeling. But also, if I want to make an important decision in my life, I use John Cage’s Chance Operations, which is where you throw a coin and apply to the universal law, not as a subjective law. That really makes a huge difference. So, the answer you get, you have to follow. Have you ever done that?
I love it! Yes.
Do it with the small things first, ask yourself: ‘Should I go to the cinema or not go to the cinema?’ Throw the coin and see what is going to happen. Really follow that, it has amazing results.
What are your plans next, beyond the Venice Biennale and Art Basel?
This year, I am wrapping up my two-year tour of my retrospective in Belgrade in a museum that was closed for 10 years, its coming home. I haven’t showed in Belgrade for 50 years, not for my entire career, ever. It’s a big deal, the show is in September.
You keep going, you just don’t’ stop.
It’s kind of busy, lots of work. When you stop, you die. I don’t believe artists can go to pension. Artists just die working, you know.