Marina Abramović: Unveils Seven Minute Silence Peace Intervention At Glastonbury

Marina Abramović

The Glastonbury Festival is renowned for its musical trendsetting. Now, in a high-profile intervention performance artist Marina Abramović has created a seven-minute silence work for peace on the pyramid stage—a first in the festival’s history.

Marina Abramović
Marina Abramović

The unexpected interlude, wedged between musical performances, was designed as a “public intervention” to encourage reflection on themes of conflict and peace. Abramović addressed the crowd, stating, “There are wars, there is famine, there is protest, there is killing. Here, we will try to do something different. We can all together give unconditional love to each other. [It is] the only way to change the world.”

Despite her nerves about the potential for the silence to fail, Abramović bravely proceeded. She urged the massive audience to close their eyes, place a hand on a neighbour’s shoulder, and remain still for 420 seconds. To the surprise of many, it worked. A profound hush descended over the crowd as a gong resonated through the field.

Standing on stage, the 77-year-old Serbian artist extended her arms, revealing a dress shaped like the CND symbol, designed by Riccardo Tisci, former creative head of Burberry. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has long been supported by Glastonbury, making the symbolic dress particularly poignant.

Despite the pervasive music from nearby stages and the occasional interruption from phone notifications and beer cans, the overall impact was undeniably moving. Thousands of festival-goers temporarily set aside their hedonistic pursuits to ponder their place in the world.

In a pre-performance interview with The Guardian, Abramović elaborated on her motivations. “We are facing a dark moment in human history. So what can be done?” she questioned. “I always think protest brings more protest; hate brings more hate. It’s important to turn to yourself. It’s easy to criticise everything else, but what can I do for myself? How can I change?”

Acknowledging the daunting challenge of quieting Glastonbury’s typically boisterous crowd, Abramović admitted, “It was a big risk, and the prospect of failure terrified me. But I wanted to take the risk. Can you imagine if we succeed? It will be an incredible moment.”

And succeed, she did. For seven brief minutes, Abramović achieved the unthinkable: she transformed the rowdy energy of Glastonbury into a collective moment of introspection and unity.

Marina Abramović
Marina Abramović Photo: © Artlyst 2024

Marina Abramović: The Grandmother of Performance Art

Marina Abramović, born on November 30, 1946, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), is a pioneering performance artist whose work has significantly shaped the trajectory of contemporary art. Renowned for her daring, often extreme performances, Abramović explores the limits of the body and the mind’s potential, pushing herself and her audience into new realms of experience.

In a strict, militaristic household, Abramović’s early life was marked by discipline and endurance, themes that later permeated her artistic practice. She studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade but soon transitioned to performance art, drawn by its immediacy and potential for direct interaction.

In the 1970s, Abramović’s early works, such as “Rhythm 10” (1973) and “Rhythm 0” (1974), established her as a formidable force in the art world. These performances, which involved self-inflicted pain and audience participation, challenged conventional notions of art and artist-audience relationships.

Her partnership with German artist Ulay from 1976 to 1988 was particularly influential. Together, they created iconic performances like “The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk” (1988), a poignant piece marking the end of their personal and professional relationship as they walked from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China to meet in the middle and say goodbye.

Abramović’s solo career flourished, culminating in her groundbreaking 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “The Artist Is Present.” For three months, Abramović sat silently across from museum visitors, inviting them to engage in a robust, wordless exchange. This performance, which drew thousands of participants and spectators, cemented her status as a cultural icon and brought performance art into mainstream consciousness.

Abramović has received numerous accolades, including the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale. She also established the Marina Abramović Institute, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting performance art.

At 77, Abramović continues to innovate and provoke, using her body as a canvas to explore themes of endurance, vulnerability, and human connection. Her fearless commitment to her craft and ability to transform the ephemeral into the profound has earned her the title of the “grandmother of performance art.

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