Scream Out the Bad: An Evening with Marina Abramović
December 7, 2016
By Amelia Peacock, SAL’s Community Engagement Coordinator
“It’s about to get really loud.” Those six simple words from the Town Hall House Manager proved an oddly poignant introduction to my evening with Marina Abramović. Two minutes later, the sound of 900 people screaming themselves into cathartic bliss gave me more context. It was an unearthly noise, a collective, active breathing out that blew through everyone in the auditorium and beyond into the cloudy November night.
Not able to participate in the scream, I joined the audience, still suspicious of Marina’s power. Although I am a theatre artist and appreciator, I often hold performance art at arms length, not quite sure what to do or where to look.
But Marina made it easy. She was honest, funny, relatable, and the essence of present, pulling her audience in with unrivaled magnetism and pragmatic realness. Everything she said was a quotable nugget of wisdom that her audience coveted as readily as air. The wide age range and strong devotion of her fans suddenly made sense as Marina reached out to each person, conversing and laughing with the room like a lifelong friend. She filled the stage with stories, images, and videos of her career, offering her thoughts on a staggering variety of topics:
On live performance: “The energy is something you have to feel and experience. After it’s over, it’s just a memory.”
On the word “No”: “If you say ‘No’ to me, it’s just the beginning.”
On letting go: “You can’t do anymore after you’ve done all you can do. ‘Let it go’ is the biggest lesson I learned in my life.”
On regret: “I don’t have any regrets. I look back on my life and everything had a purpose and a reason.”
On purpose: “The most important this is to find something that you truly love. Then, if you go for that, you can never make any misstep.”
The group scream that started the evening continued as an inaudible sigh through the rest of the event. Shoulders softened, lips relaxed, breathing deepened, synapses glowed. Marina ended our conversation with a thought on her art: “Performance is such an unbelievable form of art because you can create with every particle of your body.”
I left the auditorium with every particle in me singing, and I know I was not the only one.