Above everything else, parent’s nagging, official health warnings, the media horror stories, it was listening to Damon Albarn’s new album ‘Everyday Robots’ that finally made me want to accept the harm of technology. It’s title stands as a metaphor us: modern humanity whose use of technology is turning itself into a population of automated cyborgs, in that the repeated and prolonged action of staring down into an isolated rectangle and fiddling with our fingers separates us as individuals from the idea of what makes us human – that we are capable of intelligent thought, and clear communication with others around us.
The wires and signals aren’t just taking away our messages or pictures, they’re taking away us from conscious, everyday living – we ‘just touch thumbs’, only ‘connecting’ through the ends of our digits. It’s a clear message that seems viable in this day and age. However, that’s not to say that I’m innocent of technology addiction: I Instagram and Facebook just as much as the next 20 year old. That being said I want to minimize my dependence on my iPhone because for me it does take away from the enjoyment of life. As cheesy as it sounds, the chance that we each are alive and free to think is astounding. Why was I born as I am, here and now, and not as someone else?
This is why I love hearing the news that celebrities such as Prince ban the use of mobile phones at their concerts, Beyoncé actively scolds fans for shoving phones in her face and Kevin Spacey has even halted his play to reproach the owner of an unanswered device. But I’m writing about all of this now because it seems as if the population, especially artists, are only just realizing the social damage that the communicative aspect of technology can inflict.
Like Damon Albarn, Marina Abramović is another such artist who has been vocal about this isolating nature of technology, her performance art being another symbolic vocalization alongside her explanations of her philosophy that mainly despairs at humanity’s most recent rejection of ‘consciousness’. “Art is like breathing, you need to breathe to live”, Abramović paraphrases Yoko Ono in a 1990 documentary in which she explains the importance of art and the potential of the mind.
Only a few years earlier, Rhythm 0 was exhibited, in which she allowed audience members to use any number of 72 objects that she had chosen, from a rose and a pot of honey to a gun and a pair of scissors, to inflict upon her body delight or damage. As time passed, the audience became more and more violent towards Abramović, who had transformed from a person with authority, being the instigator of the audience’s situation, into a passive being, like a toy to be played with. After six hours, Abramović moved towards the audience, who fled from her in order to avoid a confrontation.
Abramović believes it’s the media and technology that has fuelled this corrosion of morality and has taken humans away from ‘the flow of nature’. In an interview, she revealed a particular conversation with a cremator has really stayed with her, in which he revealed that only 20 years ago, 125 degrees was needed to burn a body, when now 715 degrees is required to combust flesh due to the amount of toxins and chemicals that infests us.
‘512 Hours’ is Abramović’s latest work, committing 8 hours a day for two and a half months entirely to her audience, she’s embarking on another experiment in which she again challenges her physical and mental limits. The spectator will voluntarily play a crucial role of performing body alongside the exhibit, as the only thing displayed against the stark white walls of the Serpentine Gallery is the artist herself. The ‘material absence’ which Abramović will enforce on the audience in ridding every individual who steps through the gallery entrance of personal objects correlates to Marina’s insistence of human interaction, free from distraction and open to the potential of the mind. This is expected to be ‘an unprecedented moment in the history of performance art’. I can’t wait to see what happens.
Trailer for Marina Abramovic’s exhibition documentary: ”The Artist is Present”
Charlotte Dawnay is the ART & FASHION Editor of Prancing Through LIFE. She also studies French and Spanish at the University of Edinburgh. She loves the work of surrealist artist Joan Miró and has a terrible addiction to avocado. This we’ve noticed is a common problem and although we cannot recommend anything to treat this addiction, we do sympathise.
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