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Drop the Frock, Enjoy Marina Instead ...

10/06/2014 15:17 BST | Updated 10/08/2014 10:59 BST

Mindfulness has been a staple of Britain's health and beauty pages for quite a while; now, it has hit the art world. From 11 June, cult performance artist Marina Abramović will be in situ at the Serpentine Gallery for a 'durational' artwork lasting 512 hours, or 64 days. Abramović will simply be, working without script or props, and in turn she invites visitors to the gallery to experience the present moment and momentarily ignore the past and future, notoriously difficult though that may be.

Yet those of us who attended her press presentation found the experience surprisingly accessible and inspiring and can't wait to go back and experience it again. It was simple and moving in a way you would never guess from the hype surrounding Abramović's arrival in the capital.

The philosopher Alain de Botton has dedicated a whole book to his firm belief that art can help us with our most intimate and ordinary dilemmas.

The truth is that we can easily experience this ourselves. From live installations that might seem off-puttingly conceptual (Abramović), to a feel-good musical directed by a theatrical heavyweight (The Pajama Game), good art has the power to force our attention away from ourselves to the here and now of a particular performance or artefact, with life-enhancing results.

We know that sometimes the pick-me-up we're looking for comes in the form of a new frock, an intense yoga class or a glass of vino. But we also know that sometimes, art will do the trick and will lift our spirit in a more durable way.

So why is it that culture often goes to the bottom of our to do list? Sometime it is because we don't have the time to book, or to plan. It is so hard to keep track of what is going on and what we are likely to enjoy.

It is also because access to the arts is about perception and expectation, something reflected by the new culture secretary Sajid Javid over the last few days. Javid, in a masterly humble brag, is claiming he grew up on a cultural diet of Star Trek and Bollywood, thus flaunting his populist credentials while modestly excusing himself from familiarity with his new brief.

As Javid explained to his audience at the live music venue St George's in Bristol on Friday 6 June,

The idea of popping along to the Donmar Warehouse - or even the Bristol Old Vic - to take in a cutting edge production was simply not on the agenda. It wasn't what people like me, people from my background did.

We are all sometimes guilty of writing off genres or forms as 'not for us'. A good friend confided to me rather guiltily only the other day that when she was taken to see Russell Maliphant's Still Current at Sadler's Wells, she was expecting this evening of contemporary dance, especially for a novice like herself, to be challenging, abstract and perhaps even boring. Instead it was wonderful - expressive and moving in a way she had no idea dance could be.

'High art', however intimidating it may seem to the uninitiated - and aren't we all at some point? - can and should be as engaging and powerful as Star Trek and Bollywood was for the young Sajid. And that includes you Marina...