Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time, Suspended

As I entered the room, bathed in silence, a man dressed in black came and took my hand and guided me to the central pedestal. And there we stood, quietly, breathing, eyes closed, surrounded by others, stoic and immobile. People descended, new people were guided, hand-in-hand joined to their guides or solo, standing, waiting, stilling the mind. A breathing human monument, a moveable Stonehenge.

Experiencing Marina Abramovic’s '512 Hours' at the Serpentine is transcendent. With an open spirit and respectful demeanour, the entire experience becomes a meditation. In an adjoining room, cots, scattered in no particular order welcomed participants to lie and ponder and dream and rest. They were covered in colourful sheets by members of Abramovic’s black-clad team of assistants. A quiet room of contemplation, a peaceful ward brightened with pops of colour, all bathed in the to and fro of sunlight streaming in through the windows above. I stood and watched, and breathed as, in silence, a room full of people lay in their own meditations. On individual journeys but on parallel paths. As a woman arose from a cot near me, she caught my eye and invited me, silently, to take her place. The simple connection, the simple act of guidance – like the man dressed in black taking my hand – was contagious, somehow that parallel path we were traversing together in this exhibition space came to an intersection in a simple yet powerful way.

The final room features the most amount of motion (which isn't really saying much). It also had an incredible cinematic quality. From the doorway you see people walking along the length of the room with very slow and painstaking care, their measured movements slowed down, conscious of every move of every muscle that makes up the experience of walking. The scene reminded me of those from theatrical plays where all but one actor freezes – a tableau of a moment in time. But here, the movement, in extreme and personal slow motion, was stunning.

A truly powerful experience, especially for me who values introspection and meditation so much. I can only imagine this is a preview of the Marina Abramovic Institute planned to open in upstate New York in the coming years (designed by OMA). There is incredible potency in locking up all your time- and communication-devices and just bathing in pure quiet, experience and connection. Slowing down, reflecting in, connecting back ... after a few moments, you can hear your breath, and hear your own heartbeat pulsing subtly through your body.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Just Visiting

Driving into Montreal, the Five Roses Flour sign blinks red above its silos, an unofficial welcome back to the city after a drive down to the United States.

It is my last full day of a two-week trip back to Montreal and it has been filled with lots of family time and special moments. No matter how many phone calls or Skype calls, nothing really replaces time spent with cousins, sisters, brothers, parents in real time, in real presence. There is something affirming about family time, at least for me; we've had a whole life together, a constellation of moments we all share, people we cherish.

Even for all its maddening qualities, challenges and quirks, Montreal will always be home for me. These streets are familiar, this mixing of English and French, the great diversity, the funk and the fabulous. The sometimes languid pace of life here can leave something to be desired, or, conversely, it can be wholly instructive; time to check in, slow down, enjoy. The formation one gets growing up in this city is so incredibly unique and irreplaceable, and there is something ticking in the heart of this little metropole.

Perhaps it's just an ideal summer foray that has me in a deeply reflective mood. Maybe I would not say the same in the frost of winter. And it is not to say that I am not incredibly blessed with my life in London at the moment; I am exactly where I need and want to be. Just throwing out some mad props to MTL, ma ville, ma patrie. Cheers to Montreal.