Pioneering performance artist Marina Abromavić returns to Oxford, after a 2021 residency at Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. Abromavić’s research at the Pitt Rivers has informed her new exhibition, Gates and Portals, at Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art. In Gates and Portals, Abromavić carries on her lifelong exploration of transformative states of consciousness, and the incorporation of audience into her work.
Close up of the portal in gallery 4. © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Arte and Marina Abramović. Image courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives.
Abromavić’s most famous example of audience participation is her 1974 work, Rhythm 0, which terrifyingly resulted in an audience member holding a loaded gun to her head.
Short film showing Abromavić's performance of Rhythm 0 in 1974.
In Gates and Portals, Abromavić is not present. However, the audience’s participation is, once again, an integral part of the work; but in a very gentle and meditative way. The exhibition is divided up into 4 galleries, with each gallery offering a different method of audience interaction. There is nothing as violent or overtly confrontational as Rhythm 0, but the exhibition may be very challenging to some.
Gallery 4, photograph by Thierry Bal/Modern Art Oxford.
I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, if you’re planning to attend, so I won’t go into too much detail. I will say, however, that the audience interaction involves sensory deprivation, as well as entering into meditative states.
Gallery 2 involves being blind folded as well as noise cancellation headphones. Note that sensory deprivation is optional.
The sensory deprivation coupled with the absence of any external means of marking time (you are asked to surrender your mobile and watch prior to entry) means that time bends and stretches in strange ways during your visit. The practical among us may like to know that the exhibition takes approximately 45 minutes to go through.
Gates and Portals Trailer
I loved this exhibition; from taking the hand of the helper and being led into the science fiction-esque scene of the first gallery, to exiting the portal of the last gallery.
Part of the film, shown in gallery 3, Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Photo by Tim Hand.
Whether you enjoy this exhibition will be almost entirely dependent on your emotional state, your past experiences, your willingness to participate, and your tolerance for performance art. It will also depend on your time and finances; can you risk 1 hour and the ticket price on something you may hate? If the answer is no, then I recommend that you don’t go.
For me, everything came together on the day I visited to make this a contemplative and rather wonderous experience.
Feature image from gallery 1, photography by Thierry Bal/Modern Art Oxford.
If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy my posts about the displaying of human remains at the Pitt Rivers Museum , my post about the gorgeous light exhibitions projected onto the outside of the Pitt Rivers Museum here, my post about Modern Art Oxford's Anish Kapoor Exhibition or my other posts
about art and art exhibitions here.
Note: Due to a bug in the Wix software, the accented ć only displays in this jarring way if English is the main language of the site. Apologies.