The present is the time-frame that we never address, because we are always reflecting on what happened and then projecting what is going to happen, for our hopes or what kind of ideas we’re going to realise. We escape the present. It is typical of the Western cultural approach that somehow the present is not lived.
I think it is incredibly important that the nature of performance is about the present, the hear and now. It doesn’t mean that it excludes the past or future. It’s just that when the performance is happening in a particular time and space, the present should be the only thing we relate to at that moment. You actually have to block the reflections of the past and future and be aware of that moment of now. You can only have a full dialogue with the performance if you’re aware of now–otherwise you’re not completely there.
The question is how can you be with your mind and your body in the same place when this moment happens. You can very easily sit and look at the performance with your body, but your mind might in Honolulu. The idea is for the performer to create a charismatic space, a kind of electricity in the piece that actually you can’t escape. You can’t reflect on your past, you can’t project your future. That moment now is the only moment you live when the performance happens.
But the performer has the same problem. The performer can be physically in front of you performing, but his mind can be somewhere else. That’s the importance of long-durational time. This allows you to get into the time of the present, because over a long period of time your body’s exhausted and you really have to be present to deal with the pain. It’s the same with the public, if they’re going with the time-frame you’re proposing for seeing the performance. After four hours they are much more receptive and much more aware of simple things than they were in the beginning. So that’s why I propose the long durational performance–it’s a really transformative element which puts you in a here-and-now situation.
Marina Abramovic in Marina Abramovic + The Future of Performance Art