Marina Abramović is no stranger to populism, having single-handedly raised the profile of performance art from white-cube curio to Jay-Z party fodder over the span of her 40-year career. Her latest venture, a partnership with WePresent, file-sharing platform WeTransfer’s editorial arm, involves a digital iteration of “The Abramović Method,” the viral, participatory meditation performance that put her on the map with art enthusiasts, laymen, and everyone in between. According to WeTransfer, this “exploration of being present in both time and space… incorporates exercises that focus on the breath, motion, stillness, and concentration,” and WePresent is making this experience available “all day, everyday” to 70 million people across the globe.
From a marketing perspective, this collaboration represents the kind of cultural insight only Abramović and her team could manage. COVID’s onset has helped the online “mindfulness” industry grow to $1 billion over the course of 2020, and nearly 40 percent of American adults report practicing weekly meditation or breathing exercises of some kind. By melding her hypnotic brand with Silicon Valley’s biggest antidote to burnout, Abramović has effectively drilled straight to the root of her appeal, distilling the aspects of her persona that resonate so widely into the most universal experience known to digital natives — waiting. Instead of tapping fingers or checking Instagram while huge files upload, users can take time instead to chill out, clear their minds, and get some culture.
Part of WePresent’s new Guest Curator series, Abramović will also spend her time on the platform spotlighting emerging talent who are “taking performance art in unique directions,” she says. Names include Ana Prvacki, Mauricio Ianes, Yiannis Pappas, Terrence Koh, and Regina Jose Galindo.
This is not WeTransfer’s first foray into artist patronage; the company reports that it has “collaborated with 1,000 artists from over 100 countries to date.” Abramovic’s turn comes on the heels of creative collaborations with household names like Björk, Solange Knowles, and Tyler Mitchell. Back in 2016, WeTransfer CMO Damian Bradfield quipped that “if we featured a young photographer on WeTransfer, we could crash their website based on the amount of traffic we would drive to them.” That’s partially because, according to the company, 74 percent of WeTransfer’s users are creatives themselves, making their usage of wallpapers, online exhibitions, and partnership projects particularly spot-on.
The company has hosted exclusive online turns with artists like Ai Weiwei, Ryan McGinley, and Kamasi Washington, whose Harmony For Difference EP for the last Whitney Biennial was hosted by WeTransfer’s music arm. 30 percent of WeTransfer’s wallpapers are dedicated to supporting work by artists, musicians, illustrators, and filmmakers, and the Amsterdam-based platform has also developed online interactive experiences with institutions like the Royal Academy of Arts and McSweeney’s Publishing.
WeTransfer has also committed to commissioning new works in support of the Marina Abramović Institute, the artists’s upstate New York performance space. Following the unveiling of “The Abramović Method” in the summer, WePresent and Abramović’s year-long partnership will culminate in an online exhibition, “Time Capsule,” featuring unique insights from the artist’s illustrious career.