If you’re a twittering, opinionating citizen of the internet, you will most likely have observed a recent phenomenon, whereby people do things for an unusually long period of time. Unlike trans-continental flight or Test cricket, though, these people aren’t just doing things that happen to take a while: the ‘taking a while’ bit is the whole point of the exercise.
This is durational art. It is art of any discipline — most commonly music, film and performance — that utilises time itself as a core component of the work.
In May, rock band The National collaborated with Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson on an installation at New York’s MoMA called ‘A Whole Lot of Sorrow’, which involved them performing their song ‘Sorrow’ for six hours. In July, Jay ‘no hyphen’ Z performed his song ‘Picasso Baby’ for six hours at New York’s Pace Gallery, alongside performance artist Marina Abramović.
Abramovic is perhaps the most well-known crossover from art circles. Her explorations of pain, endurance and mysticism date back to the seventies, and 1974's alarming ‘Rhythm 0' gives you an idea of how far she was willing to go with this stuff. Recently though, she has gained wider renown (and even lost some respect) by leaning on her celebrity connections to spruik for her Abramovich Institute, which offers donors the opportunity to “develop skills for observing long durational performances through a series of exercises and environments designed to increase awareness of their physical and mental experience in the moment” (it also offers us an excuse to watch Lady Gaga nakedly embrace the “crystal of her nakedness”, which is sort of a metaphor but sort of not).
With its move into pop circles, durational art has suddenly become a thing. But where did it come from? And what does it do?
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Durational art provides a valuable opportunity to contemplate boredom.
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Article by Junkee's Edward Sharp-Paul for Stoli Australia