Behind the scenes of Marina Abramović’s Rising

The celebrated performance artist reveals the process behind Rising, an interactive game that lets players to decide whether she, and the planet, survive

“When I was introduced to virtual reality, I understood the possibilities were enormous,” explains Marina Abramović. Renowned for her remarkable feats of physical endurance, the artist recognised the enormous potential of translating her practice to a new medium: “Whatever you can with your body, you as an avatar can do endlessly”.

Abramović collaborated with Acute Art to produce Rising, a powerful work that harnesses virtual reality technology to convey the devastating effects of climate change. “I created a video game that will present players with the opportunity to save lives in urban landscapes which have been radically altered by catastrophic flooding,” she explains.

Those who play this game are immersed in an intimate virtual space, coming face-to-face with Abramović, who beckons from within a glass tank that is slowly filling with water. As with her performance art, the artist’s body remained integral to the finished work; to prepare, she spent hours immersed in a specially equipped pool, safely “drowning”.

Players will be given a choice: to save Abramović and the planet, or let both die. “I hope to explore whether immersive play will increase empathy for current and future victims of climate change, and how this will affect a player’s conscience and energy,” she explains. “In real life, when someone rescues another person or offers aid, there is a transfer of energy; both are affected by the experience. Will the same happen in virtual reality?”

This “dystopian world”, Abramović says, focuses on a subject that is increasingly urgent. “Some predictions say that, in just one hundred years, the human race will no longer exist on this planet. I want to address these issues.”