Review, Marina Abramović: The House with the Ocean View, Royal Academy of Art, London by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Royal Academy of Arts, London/David Parry

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Marina Abramović has now been in London for some months. This performance artist who brought the form to the mainstream, has been collaborating with some of the city’s big institutions: English National Opera, Southbank Centre and more. Her fascinating exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art has gotten loads of attendees. It was her birthday a not long ago and even one of her photos at Phillips Auctions sold for over £58,000. There is much going on…

From 2002 comes The House with the Ocean View a durational piece where Marina lived in the gallery for 12 full days. Only allowed water, no food or talking or writing, people flocked to her as if for guidance. Let’s not forget this was in the aftermath of 9/11. After loving the show in London there were three chances to catch this piece, with three separate artists, all of which taught under the Abramović method. Firstly, it was Elke Luyten and now it was the time of Kira O’Reilly..

I wanted to spend as much time in the space as possible. I arrived around 10:30ish briskly past the masses in the exhibition to make my way to the end of the gallery. The space for The House, had one man who appeared to be meditating, I sat near him upon the wooden benches, with huge crystals both sides. Security kept up their demand of no photos. Kira, who appeared to be sleeping on her wooden bed, with a crystal slab as a pillow, similar to what he could try earlier in the exhibit. It was a quiet air within the space. For one unforgettable moment, Kira turned her head very slowly and gazed upon myself and the other gentlemen. This was the start of her last day in the gallery.

Gradually she rose, filled up a glass of water from her personal tap to the brim and carefully walked around the space so there would be no spillage. This almost Zen feel to the room was incredibly calming, just what I needed. Kira would often gently scan the room and share moments with the visitors. Through it all, it was her smile I’ll remember most fondly. It was a lovely sharing moment. She played with her hair, the wooden comb one of a few generous offerings. She moved about, altering the tempo of a metronome, one of the lone sounds in the space. My worry was its clacks would haunt me, yet this marker of time felt right and sombre in the space. Humour and horror would also be present thanks to the amazing ladders going up to the house which featured knives as its steps.

During I was in need of lunch, after going around the full show trying out all the hands-on crystal formations. Prior to leaving I saw Kira had placed her table and chair in at an angle in the space, as if hung from the air. We see all this, even in her platform rooms above us. Curiously the one thing absent from Mariana’s instructions for the piece is the telescope which featured in the original duration. I feel it would have added little and was perhaps cut with good intentions.

After being at the Southbank Centre I vowed I would make it just to see the end of Kira’s final half hour in the space. Wading through Xmas shoppers, I made it thanks to the gracious staff at the RA. I was let in, the room now stuffed with people. I sat and within minutes, who would turn up but Marina herself. I was metres away. She got up toward Kira still in her performance state standing and smiling. Marina, overcome, began to cry and then let it all out. It was incredibly touching. I wanted to comfort her. The idea of someone else trying this demanding piece would touch Marina and others. The security said they were closing, and we all gave Kira huge applause for such a feat. It was great to see her again at the end, she looked at me as if to say, ‘You’re back!’

An incredibly invasive film crew disrupted the good vibes, mucking about between artist and Marina. I found it didn’t matter.

Amanda Coogan performs The House with the Ocean at the Royal Academy of Art from 6 to the 17 December 2023.

The full Marina Abramović exhibition continues at the Royal Academy of Art till 1 Jan 2024. 

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