The Marina Abramovic Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art (MAI) will focus on what Abramovic terms "long-durational work"—performance marathons lasting hours or even days, involving not just performer and audience but audience-as-performer, with visitors becoming part of an ongoing, on-site experiment at the Institute.
True to her 40-year track record as a daringly independent iconoclast, Abramovic didn’t go shopping for advice when it came time to pick an architect. "I make my own decisions," said the artist, speaking Monday at a special event announcing her eponymous institute at PS1, MoMA’s contemporary-art annex in Queens. Abramovic has been a resident of the Netherlands for many years; she and the Koolhaas are longtime acquaintances, and his searching, root-radical approach seems to rhyme with hers. [Editor's note: She was even spotted in the second row at his keynote speech for the New Museum's Festival of Ideas last spring; the audience was surprised when Koolhaas called upon her to answer a question about the division between art and architecture!]
The program of the proposed MAI also promises to afford the architect an opportunity to explore exactly the kind of improbable functional scenarios that have been his métier since the appearance of his groundbreaking book Delirious New York in 1978. Representing Koolhaas’ Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), designer Shohei Shigematsu delivered a presentation that showed the future building—an erstwhile indoor tennis court—colonized by lab-coated performers engaging in such varied activities as standing stock-still in freestanding doorframes and being pushed around in oversized wheelchairs. The OMA scheme makes provisions for features not often seen in the typical project brief, among them a Crystal Room, Digital Temple, and Levitation Room. She also joked (or perhaps not) that there would be rooms dedicated to drinking water, and one to drinking water slowly.
Strange as the goings-on inside may be, the residents of Hudson will be relatively unmolested by them, save perhaps for the influx of visitor vehicles. "We are not touching the façade," says Shigematsu, adding that the new venue will complement the emerging urban character of Hudson as a go-to spot for adventurous culture vultures.
Writer and critic Ian Volner has contributed articles on architecture and design to New York Magazine, Architect, The Paris Review, and Interior Design, among other publications. He lives in Manhattan.