The “Digital Marina Abramović Institute” Is a Big Dumb Joke


If you were one of the 4,765 people who gave money to the Marina Abramović Institute, congratulations: together, you pulled together over $600,000 to fund an 8-bit computer game through which you will learn the dedication needed to become a world-famous, super-rich performance artist.

A few days ago, an email went out to backers with an invitation to play the first Marina Abramović Institute game, created by Pippin Barr. The email read:

Dear MAI Founders: Today’s the day: Pippin Barr’s digital MAI is ready for Kickstarter backers! Click here to play: The backers-only password is: [REDACTED] Please do not share this password as we want to keep early access exclusive to Kickstarter backers. You will also soon be receiving three Abramovic Method games by Pippin Barr: rice counting exercise, stepping on the ground, and complaining to a tree. As always, thank you for your support! Feel free to contact us at with any questions or comments. If you want to post about your experience in the digital MAI to social media, please use hashtags #dMAI and #whyMAI so we can find your posts! Best wishes, MAI

Once you enter the MAI, you must sign a contract. A digital contract! I doubt it is binding, but it sure is annoying.

In order to participate in the exercises — or games — one must hold down the shift key on his or her keyboard for an entire hour. Only then can you play the games, the first of which involves “walking slowly” with a group of other MAI participants — all cult-like avatars, clad in white — across the screen. One must tap the right arrow key slowly and repeatedly to move the person; if you hold down the key to get the damn thing over with, you must still wait for the rest of the people to slowly make their way to the right side of the game. While still holding down the shift key.

If you get bored, as I did, and click into another tab, this is what happens:

My friend, who passed along the email from MAI because she actually backed the project on Kickstarter (bless her heart), also gave up after “the walking thing,” and sadly did not get to count rice, step on the ground, or complain to a tree. She did say, however, that her husband walked into the room to find her doing the first exercise, and said, “Is this some video game version of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie?” (A Luis Buñuel video game, I must admit, sounds a lot more entertaining.)

If you make it through the hour-long collection of exercises, you are rewarded with a performance. What could it possibly be? An 8-bit version of Marina herself staring at you for as long as you can stand it? Only those truly dedicated to staring at a website for an hour will be able to find out. I, on the other hand, would rather watch something on Netflix.