Glastonbury Festival 2024: Celebrating Diversity and Social Consciousness

Marina Abramović | Seven Minutes of Collective Silence | Glastonbury Festival
Marina Abramović's "Seven Minutes of Collective Silence" at Glastonbury Festival (2024). Source: The Guardian

The Glastonbury Festival, a leading performing arts festival held annually in Somerset, England, focused on the theme of migration this year. Performances by Banksy and Marina Abramović explored finding peace amidst war, celebrating diversity, and the importance of kindness and humility.

Established in 1970, Glastonbury is celebrated not only for its diverse lineup of music performances but also for its significant contributions to the art world. The festival features an extensive range of visual and performance art installations, as well as some live performances, providing a platform for artists to showcase their work to a global audience.

This year’s new installation, Terminal 1, aimed to replicate the refugee experience for visitors. Upon entering, they faced a customs officer who made them answer a question from the British citizenship test. Designed to be intensely unsettling, the installation profoundly immersed visitors in the refugee perspective.

Performance artist Marina Abramović performed her latest piece, “Seven Minutes of Collective Silence,” where she silenced a record-breaking crowd of 175,000 to 200,000 people. The artist appeared in a striking white dress in the shape of the CND peace symbol, designed by Burberry’s former head designer Riccardo Tisci. 

Abramović initially feared she would not be able to quiet the crowd. However, despite some shouting and movement, her performance ultimately drew an unprecedented number of spectators, marking a significant milestone in her career.

She invited the audience to place their hands on their neighbors and close their eyes. The echo of a gong initiated the silence. Abramović encouraged the thousands present to take a moment for personal reflection on the “turbulent times” we face today.

Already having performed at the Glastonbury Festival before in 2014, Banksy made a surprise appearance on a band’s stage performance in Glastonbury on the same day as Marina Abramović.

Previously, Banksy performed in Glastonbury with a mobile sculpture titled “Sirens of the Lambs.” The piece was designed to draw attention to the problem of animals being raised for their meat.

10 years later, Banksy staged another stunt: an inflatable boat carrying dummy figures in life vests, symbolizing migration. During a performance by the band Idles, the boat navigated the crowd while the band played “Danny Nedelko,” a song criticizing right-wing immigration policies and promoting diversity.

Banksy also created a stab-proof vest for rapper Stormzy’s 2019 Glastonbury performance, adorned with the British flag. This design was a nod to England’s knife violence issue. The black and white flag, subtly accented with red tones reminiscent of dried blood, proved to be the perfect costume for the headline artist.

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