Imagine my excitement when my lovely – and very pregnant – friend offered to put us on the guest list for a special view of… nothing. Well, nothing in the Serpentine Gallery, so at least it would be a nicely white-washed nothing with a well stocked book shop and pretty trees in the background. And maybe a free orange juice and some pretzels.
However, this wasn’t nothing in the sense we mortals might know it (eg, “there’s nothing in the fridge, I’ll have to eat noodles and ketchup”; or “there’s nothing on TV, we’ll have to binge-watch House of Cards till our eyeballs fall out”. No, this was art nothing. Which is kind of like something, but with added pretension and better outfits.
Certainly the ladies and gents milling around outside the gallery when we arrived were dressed more for a fashion party than an art “thing”, but seemingly the two are merging towards indistinguishability. Lots of Whistles, neon, very directional shoes and even funkier jewellery (on ladies, there were still the odd pair of red trousers on men, but mainly sharp suits). It was a street style dream, even if that street was Rotten Row rather than Shoreditch High St.
Any road, as you’ve probably guessed if you’ve checked the culture pages or glanced at Twitter in the last few weeks, the “nothing” in question was quite something: Marina Abramovic’s 512 Hours performance/living installation/happening in which she interacts with the gallery guests – usually one at a time in hushed tones – and leads them by the hand to the far corners of the space whilst the rest of the punters look on slightly awkwardly, unsure whether to talk above a whisper, whether to follow her from room to room, and mostly whether to air punch or run for the hills if the artist looks like she’s heading their way. I’m sure there was more going on than this, but precisely what was only really palpable if you happened to be picked to be an interaction subject/victim (depending on your POV).
Sadly, I had no close encounters of the Serbian kind, but I witnessed a few only a few paces (and lots of backs of heads) away. I imagine her MOMA performance where she sat across a desk from visitors was more affecting, allowing more genuine intimacy for more visitors, rather than the strange semi-silent Pied Piper effect here in London, but I’m still considering a return before it ends in August.
On the plus side, I got to wear some jazzy pants which were extremely comfy (a requirement which is sadly working its way ever higher up my priorities list as my mortal clock ticks) flat sandals (ditto) and the ubiquitous biker jacket. On viewing the picture plonked to the left, I realised said pants weren’t perhaps as flattering as I’d initially thought and that heels might have alleviated the unfortunate flatten-and-widen effect they bestow, but it was too late for this particular outing. Still, at least there was sunshine. And free orange juice.