'Art Must Look Forward': Performance Artist Marina Abramovic on Why She Changed Her Mind About NFTs

Marina Abramovic was skeptical about Web3, but recently announced her first NFT project, minted on the Tezos blockchain.


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Art Must Look Forward Performance Artist Marina Abramovic on Why She Changed Her Mind About NFTs image 1

Frames from Marina Abramovic’s 2001 performance art piece ‘The Hero’

Internationally-renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic has been at the forefront of new artistic approaches and techniques for decades, but she took some time to warm up to the idea of NFTs. As recently as February this year, Abramovic expressed skepticism, saying in an interview with The Guardian, “with this medium, I didn’t see any good ideas. […] I only see everybody talking about how much money you can make”.

Since then, Abramovic appears to have had a change of heart. Last week at Art Basel Basel, she announced the launch of her first NFT, a version of one of her most famous pieces, The Hero (2001) in collaboration with The Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (CIRCA) in London. The Hero is a video work, filmed shortly before the 9/11 attacks, which depicts the artist on a white horse, holding a large white flag. Created in a pre-smartphone, pre-social media age, Abramovic was searching for a way to reinterpret The Hero for today’s world.

the result is The Hero 25FPS, a series of thousands of NFTs made up of frames from the original video piece. Collectors can purchase individual NFTs minted from JPEGs, or GIFs made up of multiple frames.

Throughout her career, Abramovic has filmed and photographed her performances. In an interview with founder and artistic director of CIRCA, Josef O’Connor, at Art Basel last week, Abramovic compared the ‘immateriality’ of both traditional performance art and NFTs:

“When you’re in the present, in the here and now, in performance, […] time stops existing. To me, the idea is to be aware of time by dividing into seconds, which [this] NFT does, which is incredibly interesting because it’s a totally new experience of time and time-lapse, and stillness and movement”.

Later in the same interview, she drew parallels between the pioneering performance artists of the 1970s and today’s Web3 artists, noting that in both eras, the first instinct of the traditional establishment was to dismiss and ridicule their efforts: “Everybody was thinking this is ridiculous, this is contra-art, we should be put in mental hospitals […]”.

Talking about why she has waited until now to explore NFTs, Abramovic explained that the current conflict in Ukraine provided the inspiration to give her 2001 work ‘a new life’:

“I didn’t do NFTs for a while, because I needed to find the right content […] and for me, the Ukraine war, this whole thing with [Volodimir] Zelensky, being the hero of today and looking to the heroes of the past, and how it resonated with the image of 2001, My Hero”.

In a separate interview with ARTnews, the artist explained:

“I asked myself how I could communicate with this younger generation who perhaps weren’t even alive when The Hero was first created. You have to consider the future when making art. Art must look forward.”

In the same interview, Abramovic cited the transformative potential of Web3 technologies to benefit society, drawing a parallel between today’s Web3 pioneers and her own performance art:

“I’ve been reading about Web3 and about what the new generation is doing within that space. It’s undoubtedly the future. I can barely type an email and they’re raising millions to help people and save the rainforest. They are heroes. They are pioneering in a way that is similar to how I was pushing boundaries in the '70s[…].”

Abramovic also stressed her desire that ‘these NFTs [are] affordable and environmentally-friendly’ and cited energy efficiency and low cost as the reasons why she selected the Tezos blockchain to host her work.

The Hero will be screened from June 13 to August 13 on large screens around the world. including Times Square in New York, Picadilly Circus in London, and COEX K-Pop Square in Seoul, South Korea. Abramovic plans to use a portion of the funds generated by sales of The Hero 25FPS NFTs to award grants to people in the Web3 space with ideas ‘to help save the planet’.