When I filmed The hero in 2001, I was mourning the loss of my father. Vojo was a national hero, a soldier who fought the Nazis with the Yugoslav Partisans, the Communists led by Tito. He was a very handsome man, with a strong, stern face and thick, powerful hair. In photos of him from the war, he almost always rides a white horse. He fought with a group of guerrillas who made lightning raids on the Germans. It took impossible courage. Many of his friends were killed alongside him.
In The hero, I’m sitting on a white horse, as my father used to do so often, and I’m holding a big white flag waving in the wind. Why a white flag? My father never gave in to anything. But he was able to surprise me. I remember that in 1968, when Yugoslav students were protesting against the government to demand freedom and rights, he did something heroic that impressed me not only with his bravery but also with his solidarity and his compassion. Handsome in his raincoat and tie, his hair stacked majestically, he stood in the middle of Marx and Engels Square and delivered an impassioned speech renouncing his membership in the Communist Party and denouncing the Yugoslav “red bourgeoisie” which controlled the government. At the climax of his speech, he threw his party membership card into the crowd – an astonishing gesture. Everyone clapped wildly. I was so proud of him.
In 2001, Vojo died, and white is also the color of death. Ultimately, we all have to submit to change.
Today, the work I made in honor of my father has a whole new life. A work that I originally recorded in 2001 is now shown nightly for three months on London’s Piccadilly Lights and other major screens in Seoul, Milan, Berlin, Dublin, Tokyo and New York, as part of my order Circa 2022. It appears with a new narration that I wrote to echo the Manifesto of the artist’s life I finished in 2011, called The Heroes’ Manifesto.
This shift – from writing a manifesto for artists to a manifesto for heroes – has happened now, because courage and heroism are the qualities that the times we live in demand. Right now we are at such a strange time: we are destroying our planet and seeing wars going on all over the world. What can an artist do? Art is not going to save us. Today, I tell people that you have to adapt. Right now we need heroes; fewer artists but more heroes.
Our planet needs uncorrupted heroes with morality, who embody courage and bring about real change. Every day is an unstable, uncertain, constantly changing landscape. On the Circa screen network, we have this white horse. This white flag. This beautiful country. We need heroes who can bring new light to enlighten us. Heroes who can inspire us to be better and work together, not against each other. Heroes who care.
A hero today could be Txai Surui, a young climate activist who was the only indigenous woman to speak at the Cop26 climate conference, which challenged world leaders to act with strength and reminded us that “we must always believe that the dream is possible”. .” It could be Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova who raised $6.7 million in the first days after the Russian invasion to support Ukraine. Or it could be President Volodymyr Zelensky, who stands alone as a courageous leader at a time when the morality of our politicians is at an all-time low. In 2022, the white flag I held all those years ago represents peace.
This work is now a global call for new heroes. Today, heroes can come with white flags. They can take several forms: pacifist, feminine, sacrificial, collective. The first thing you see on screen is a woman on horseback. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that next time he will not be reincarnated as a man but as a woman. To finish. Women have a different kind of energy. But there is more than that. It has always been very important to create strong images. I can’t predict what each person is watching The hero will take away. As Marcel Duchamp said, the public must complete the work. Why this heroic posture, with the horse dominating the landscape? Why is this landscape there? All this is unanswered, I want the public to complete the work with their own interpretation, to see their own ideas of heroism.
My first NFT
My favorite philosopher Noam Chomsky once said, “We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas. Right now I think we need both. First, we need to ask ourselves who can provide the solutions we need. Heroes, those who sacrifice everything, can bring new light to illuminate this world. These new heroes are the ones I decided to support starting today. It’s really about finding solutions to these disasters. These solutions are the reason why I create my first NFT collection, The 25FPS hero. I never set out to create an NFT – this came as a surprise. Like all my previous performances, there is always an element of risk involved. I haven’t done NFT for a while because I needed to find the right idea that really worked. It’s such a new medium for me that I immediately thought of how to connect to some sort of story or performance art.
The first thing that came to mind was in 1959, when Yves Klein, on a bridge over the Seine, was selling to his collectors Area of Immaterial Pictorial Sensitivity to achieve perfect immaterialization. This simple job involved selling an empty space, in exchange for gold. If the buyer wished, the coin could then be completed in an elaborate ritual in which the buyer would burn the receipt and Klein would throw half the gold into the river. Only ashes remained in the river. If you also think of performance art, it is always about immateriality. You cannot frame and hang a show on the wall. In my opinion, this ritual moment ignited conceptualism and influenced me very early in my development as a performance artist.
I am selling each individual frame of The hero (2001) as part of The 25FPS Hero, which stands for frames per second. As with all my work, the public complements the work. My first blockchain performance will invite people to purchase either a single image (.jpg) or a sequence of images (.gif) to save time. Following this, a percentage will finance a new heroism. How? I invite people working within Web3 to submit ideas on nft.circa.art website. Ideas that make the world a better and more beautiful place. People who demonstrate heroic vision will then receive a grant in the coming months. I want to see what other ideas people have in this web3 space to help save our planet. The grants we will award from The 25FPS Hero is my small way of contributing to this future.
I don’t know what the Hero Grant winners will look like. I cast the net wide. Gavin Wood, who coined the term Web3 in 2014, said decentralized technologies are the only hope to save liberal democracy. We are beginning to see how they can make a difference in the world. Bail Bloc Project, an application developed by culture magazine The new survey, allows anyone to volunteer computing power to mine the cryptocurrency used to pay Americans without bail funds to get out of jail. I was interested to learn more about DAOs, “decentralized autonomous organizations” that are owned by their members and operate transparently on the Internet. One such organization, Cowgirl DAO, raises funds for abortion rights through the sale of NFTs of cowgirl art. Debuting in May in Dallas, with the work of photographer and artist Molly Dickson, it aims to challenge the terrible news of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and to continue to give everyone access to the right to abortion.
If Web3 projects can help victims of war, reunite families divided by prison, and restore access to reproductive health, I want to find out what other heroic impacts they can have in the real world. I would say to young Web3 kids, don’t give up. Because you are the future. You have the vision but it takes time for it to become a vision of greatness. It doesn’t happen overnight and can be a lot of work.
For me, the whole world has always been divided between two categories: the originals and those who follow. The originals are not only made up of artists, but also scientists, doctors, fashion designers, filmmakers and writers. When I founded the Marina Abramović Institute, it was dedicated to incubating a dialogue between science, art, technology and even spirituality, all immaterial. Many originals produce tangible things, but other practices – music, drama, and the study of the natural world – are essentially immaterial. Today, we need people with that vision to create new ways of learning and new art forms that haven’t even been invented yet. We need people capable of bringing new light.
I have already said that art will not save us. But ideas will save us. And art can help foster these ideas. Strong images can help. And a hardcore message. The rest I’ll leave open. I will never shy away from art, but am excited about the possibilities that lie alongside and beyond. Art will always exist. Since humanity exists, art exists. Today we need heroes.