Artist Marina Abramović Silences Glastonbury Crowd for Seven Minutes

The typically boisterous crowd went quiet for a collective peace protest

Marina Abramović peace protest: 2159705371
Marina Abramović leads a seven minute silence for peace at Glastonbury.
  Photo by Jim Dyson / Redferns via Getty Images

While great performances at Glastonbury are usually marked by cheers and loud roars from the crowd, Serbian artist Marina Abramović is demonstrating that a completely silent audience can also be a sign of a groundbreaking act.

Last Friday, the artist led a peace protest on the festival’s mainstage called Seven Minutes of Collective Silence, where she requested the crowd go quiet for 420 seconds.

"There are wars, there is famine, there is protest, there is killing," Abramović told the audience, per BBC’s Mark Savage. "Here, we will try to do something different… We can all together give unconditional love to each other.”

Abramović’s appearance at Glastonbury was announced just one day before the performance. Following the news, there was speculation around whether so many festivalgoers would be able to be quiet for such an extended period of time.

“It’s a big risk, that’s why I’m terrified,” the artist told the Guardian's Lanre Bakare before the performance. “I could completely fail, or people could just sit. I don’t know, but I want to take the risk. Failing is also important, you learn from failing as well as succeeding.”

Beyoncé led a similar exercise on her Renaissance tour—challenging the crowd to go silent during the song “Energy” after the lyric: “Look around everybody on mute.” However, her crowds were only quiet for a handful of seconds.

Luckily for Abramović, the collaboration was ultimately a success.

The artist took to the stage in a striking white dress from Burberry’s former head designer Riccardo Tisci. When Abramović held out her arms, the long sleeves formed the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) peace symbol. She invited the audience to put their hands on their neighbors and close their eyes. The ring of a gong kicked off the silence.

Savage, who was in the crowd, says that he could still hear the music from surrounding festival stages. He writes that phones would chime and “beside me, there was the tell-tale ‘psssht’ of a beer can being opened.” Still, he adds, “the overall effect was strangely moving. Setting aside the hedonism of festival life for seven minutes, thousands of people paused to contemplate their place in the world.”

“I thought it was wonderful,” one festivalgoer, Lucinda, tells the Guardian’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas. “I found out about it 30 seconds before she started. I adored her. That has made my Glastonbury. I thought it was really powerful. Seven minutes went really quickly.”

After the collective silence, Abramović left the stage and the musical acts resumed.

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