Marina Abramović Made a Film with … Adidas?

Still from the Marina Abramović/Adidas collaboration, "Work Relation" (2014) (screenshot via YouTube)
Still from the Marina Abramović/Adidas collaboration, “Work Relation” (2014) (screenshot via YouTube)

First, there was the dance of death with Jay Z. Next was the confusing collaboration with Lady Gaga. Now, the grandmother of performance art has moved on to bigger and better brands things. Yes, for reasons unbeknownst to just about everyone, Marina Abramović has teamed up with Adidas to make a commercial short film about teamwork.

The three-minute video is, according to its explanation on YouTube (prime wall text if ever I’ve seen it), “the first ever re-staging of Abramović’s iconic 1970s performance ‘Work Relation’ … reimagined through the lens of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™.” In “Work/Relation” (1978) the artist and her then-partner, Ulay, transported stones back and forth in metal buckets. The Adidas video features 11 people (the same number as a soccer team in play) demonstrating the different methods that Abramović and Ulay tried for transporting stones: each alone with a bucket, two people sharing buckets, or in a human chain. In voice-over, Abramović delivers the (completely unexpected) conclusion: “The chain is the most efficient message. The chain has the most endurance. The chain stays forever.” Unless that chain is the Brazilian World Cup team. (Too soon?)

In case anyone was unclear on the branding going on here, the 11 performers wear Adidas shell-toe sneakers and Marina Abramović Institute apron-coats (it looks as though they are also inside the MAI space) — because art, like soccer, can truly be for everyone. It just costs buckets of money to build the proper spaces to house it, and who cares if some people get pushed out of their homes along the way?

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