In the original piece, Abramović sat astride a white steed, bearing a white flag waving gracefully in the wind, set against an expansive landscape of trees and sky in Spain. The piece, released as a film, was a tribute to her then-recently deceased father, who was a Yugoslavian war hero during World War II.
Abramović, who was born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1946, is now revisiting that work in collaboration with The Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (CIRCA) in London. The film will be screened from June 13 to August 13 on a network of screens ranging from Piccadilly Lights in London and Times Square in New York, all the way to COEX K-Pop Square in Seoul, South Korea.
The artist has also written The Heroes’ Manifesto, a reconceptualization of her An Artist’s Life Manifesto from 2011. The new manifesto has been described as a response to the urgent need for heroism over artistry in today’s world.
Abramović’s NFT of The Hero (2001) will be launched on Tezos, a proof-of-stake blockchain that is considered to be more environmentally friendly and less energy intensive than others. She is slated to announce details of her inaugural NFT during a conversation with CIRCA Artistic Director, Josef O’Connor, at Art Basel on 18 June.
To find out more about Abramović’s recent explorations of the shape and form of heroism in our time, especially through NFTs, ARTnews spoke with the artist via email:
Marina Abramović: We never set out to create an NFT – it came as a surprise. The Hero was originally filmed in PAL (square format) so we did a lot of post-production work to fill out the screen in Piccadilly Circus with this beautiful landscape. It took months of editing each frame because I wanted the image to envelop the audience. I believe that ideas have to come as a surprise – frame by frame something new emerged from the stillness.
We discovered how the movement of the flag in the wind took on a new beauty and significance with each frame. No two frames were the same. The wind, the flag – they danced together, moving like a breathing organism. From one work, we are now giving birth to thousands of unique NFTs. This is very modern. This is a very Aquarian Age.
I filmed The Hero in 2001 when nobody had smartphones and social media didn’t exist. Twenty years later, we live in this new world and I find myself experimenting with how I could express this old work in a new medium. 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.
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 with my performance art. Everyone called me crazy. Very few people believed in what I was doing at the time.
Also, it is important to me that these NFTs were affordable and environmentally-friendly. The idea I’ve developed with CIRCA is a performance hosted on the Tezos blockchain. Like all of my previous performances, there is an element of risk involved and that risk centers around the audience. Experimenting means going into territory where you’ve never been, where failure is very possible. How can you know you’re going to succeed? Having the courage to face the unknown is so important. An artist should never stop taking risks, even when they are 75.