A Day at Marina Abramović and James Turrell’s New Spa

It opens in Tasmania in 2024, but we were blessed enough to snag advance access.

by Emma Specter
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Dec 13 2018, 7:01pm

Performance art goddess Marina Abramović and light/space god James Turrell have joined forces for a somewhat unexpected, decidedly GOOP-y new project; designing a spa. According to The Art Newspaper, the two artists will collaborate on the spa of a new luxury hotel in Hobart, Tasmania, launched by collector and gambling millionaire David Walsh.

The hotel, which will cost “an estimated $300 million,” isn’t slated to open until “around 2024,” but by some act of divine intervention, GARAGE was able to obtain an exclusive, early all-access pass to the spa. Below, take a verbal tour through the Marina x James’s wellness experience

9 a.m.: Check-in. Access to the hotel is “mainly via the water by ferry,” so I arrive to the spa damp and shivering, covered in the salt spray of the Pacific Ocean, and warm myself by the lobby’s roaring fire when I suddenly see a scrap of scarlet fabric whip around a corridor. Intrigued, I follow it.

10 a.m.: Light stalking of Marina. The scrap of red turns out to be the train of Marina Abramović’s signature red robe, and she and I engage in a Killing Eve-style game of cat and mouse for a while before finding ourselves face-to-face at the entrance of the spa. The artist, at last, is present.

11:30 a.m.: Healing tub time. In an effort to maintain connectivity and intimacy in an increasingly detached world, Abramović reprises the famous “The Artist is Present” installation she mounted at MoMA in 2010, sitting calmly and maintaining direct and unwavering eye contact with me while I take a bath in a claw-foot porcelain tub. It’s...weird.

1 p.m.: Lunch. A feast is served celebrating Abramović’s Serbian heritage as well as Turrell’s Los Angeles roots; have you ever had Karađorđeva šnicla (Karageorge’s schniztel) followed by a chakra-cleansing turmeric-ginger shot? In honor of Turrell’s affiliation with Flagstaff, Arizona Iced Tea is served out of millennial pink S’Well bottles.

2:30 p.m.: Light therapy. In order to give my dry, wintry New York complexion a boost, Turrell blasts my face with Raethro pink light.

3:30 p.m.: Full-body cryotherapy. Abramović, Turrell and I rendezvous in a chilly cryotherapy tank to hold hands and cry.

4:30 p.m.: Rice-counting meditation. It’s been scientifically proven that small, repetitive tasks can ease anxiety, so I join Abramović in counting out 3,987 grains of rice against a lacquered white table. For her, it’s art; for me, it’s a brief, tactile respite from the stresses of everyday life.

7:30 p.m.: Moon Hike. Abramović and I set out on a moonlit path enhanced with VR technology to make us feel like we’re traversing the Great Wall of China. Halfway through, we meet Ulay; Abramović encourages me to break up with him by proxy, as a means of exorcising the ghosts of relationships past.

8:30 p.m.: Skyscape Meeting. Abramović and I bid farewell to Ulay to meet up with Turrell for one of his celebrated Skyscapes, a “site-specific installation that invites viewers to gaze upwards toward an unobstructed view of the sky.” In other words, we look up. It’s beautiful, and I am healed.

10 p.m.: Mask time. Abramović, Turrell and I adjourn to the spa’s sauna and apply matching Dr. Jart Rubber Masks. Turrell and Abramović bicker over who gets to post an otherworldly, challenging Instagram of us hidden by the masks as I doze off, lulled by their raised voices and the gentle sound of lutes in the background.