The Marina Abramovic Method

Published by Alison Cross on

Even though I was in St Andrew’s for my son’s graduation, a visit to Toppings bookshop is compulsory for me. There amongst the art biographies and text books I spotted a lone box – a set of cards by the Serbian conceptual artist Marina Abramovic.

Famous for her performance art, these cards were developed by Marina as a method for other artists (take a bow Lady Gaga) to tap into the same zones as she does for her own work. I, of course, am not a conceptual artist, but I do work with cards and I was intrigued by what may lie within the little box – so, dear reader, I bought them.

There are 30 cards in the set, each featuring Abramovic in a mix of black and white and colour photographs. On the backside of each card is an instruction to take action from the artist and a recommended time length for the action. The action can be anything from opening and closing a door for a straight hour, to writing your name on a piece of paper for an hour, to a 10-minute stretch and so on. All the activities are designed to help you reach your highest creative potential and tap into a different level of consciousness. The box also includes an illustrated LWB which fleshes out each card’s action for the performer.

Would the card images work as an oracle? I wondered.

I first shuffled the cards thoroughly (they are not numbered or titled) and asked a very specific question. The card drawn was this:

I was utterly gobsmacked. The image was so rich, I didn’t know where to start! The woman lying by the ashes of a dead fire, the birch trees that grow first after wildfire has passed through, the idea that I was looking at a cross section of the earth with the woman lying like a seed – waiting to germinate. I also got a strong 10 of Swords vibe too, do you feel it too?

My pen flew across the paper as I wrote down as many insights as I could catch – not all of them made sense, but I feel Marina gives us permission to make ART which does not always make logical sense.

After 15 minutes of flow writing, I turned the card to read what her artist’s prompt was – to explore the space between sleeping and waking. The idea of hovering between sleep and wakefulness, between stillness and growth, to mine this space for one’s art is really interesting and so I decided to experiment for myself.

That night when I was trying to nod off, I noticed that the ‘cinema’ behind my eyelids was extremely vivid as I drifted in and out of light sleep – I could clearly see the ‘dream’ text that was in front of me, but it constantly changed, like The Matrix. In the morning, there was only sudden wakefulness as I was pulled from a dream by my OH sneezing loudly. ‘I must remember the dream,’ I thought determinedly, but much as Coleridge experienced with Kubla Kahn, one cup of breakfast tea later and the whole damn dream had drained down the plughole of my mind. I could remember not a single thing. Yet I could still remember the vivid awake-to-sleepy dreamlets from the night before.

Interesting. To me at least lol!

I asked a dear friend to give me a question and the card drawn was this, The Crying Clown.

Without giving her any clue as to the card name or the artistic instruction, I asked my friend to just tell me what popped into her head. Again a rich and diverse set of thoughts flowed out of her – everything from the significance of the time on the clock in the card, the energy of The Fool, the meaning of the smeared make-up and so much more. I gave her the title of the card and the artistic direction: ‘create an instruction for yourself’. And out flowed even more insights! So, this is exactly what my friend will do – create an instruction for herself, based on her own insights on the card imagery.

It does indeed function as an oracle and beautifully too!

For best results, do not censor yourself (I’m damn sure Marina doesn’t!) and record EVERY. THING. that comes up for you – no matter how off-the-wall you feel that it might be. Try to take the action indicated in the artist’s prompt and explore how that makes you feel – ridiculous? empowered? Cold? Breathless? Then take yourself off somewhere that you cannot be disturbed and work your way through your insights, bringing those artistic prompt feelings to bear where appropriate.

The Method cards have a strap line with ‘reboot your life’ and I can see how the exercises can free up your creativity. However, as a card reader, the images themselves (regardless of the exercises) can reboot your powers of insight and interpretation REALLY well!

Using these cards feels like being included in an installation project alongside Marina. The LWB deals only with the artistic prompts, so you have the absolute freedom to interpret her photographic art in any way that works for you and your question for the cards.

Since posting about buying this intriguing set of cards on facebook, several friends have also now ordered them. I am so curious to see how they work with the cards too. I hope that she would be pleased that a raft of new people will be enjoying her work and employing it in a fresh way to create another layer to her art.

Deck information:

Dimensions: 3.6 x 16.2 x 12.2cm
ISBN: 9781913947316
Publisher: King
Quantity of cards: 30
Card stock: standard
Finish: satiny sheen – nice to handle

You can buy it HERE in the Royal Academy of Arts shop – but it is available at many other stores too. If you like this, you may also like the Oblique Strategies cards by Brian Eno.

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....

1 Comment

Otylia · 13th November 2023 at 1:00 pm

What a fascinating journey into the artistic realms of Marina Abramovic! The idea of exploring the space between sleeping and waking, as prompted by Abramovic, adds another layer of depth to your experience. It’s intriguing how your exploration of that liminal space between consciousness and dreams brought about vivid visuals behind closed eyelids, resembling the ever-changing scenes in The Matrix. The challenge of remembering dreams echoes the elusive nature of creative inspiration.

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