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About a month ago I was talking with Edisa Weeks about our upcoming Thomas Paine project performance in June, and she mentioned that she had just come back from MOMA's retrospective of performance artist Marina Abramovic. I had never heard of her before Edisa, and from her description I thought it would be something interesting. So I read around the 'nets about it (and some New Yorker's penchant for copping a feel of the art) and checked out the MOMA site on the retrospective, The Artist is Present. I found the interviews with Marina intriguing in documenting her growth and process of her performance art (a medium of which I'm not always on-board with).
Beyond the videos and the live nude models, I think the most fascinating part of the exhibit is the work The Artist is Present, where Marina sits in silence, from museum opening until closing (without break) in a chair opposite anyone that wants to sit with her. On the surface it seems rather un-art-like and pedestrian; what's so special about someone sitting in a chair? However, what I love is the mystery of it all. She is the unknowable watcher that is watched watching. What is she thinking or feeling? what is the other person thinking or feeling? It seems to me much like the Vipassana mediation, where you are alone with yourself mediating for extended periods. In that sense then, The Artist is Present is nothing new. However, where mediation is between you and yourself, here the meditation, while taking place individually, is also BETWEEN the two protagonists in the chairs. The art/performance itself is just a medium to express a connectivity toward our fellow beings. There's no denying that SOMETHING is happening between Marina and the other person, some communication is silently transmitted. And that's where I find it quite beautiful and moving. Just as a baby's movement or your dog's look can mean something, so to can two people sitting across from each other, have meaningful 'dialogue' with one another. I love this blog about it: Marian Abramovic Made Me Cry, which is actually funny and touching at the same time.
Now I have not had the time to actually go to MOMA to see The Artist is Present firsthand (one thing I wonder is: who actually can spend the $20 admission and have the time to stand in line all day for a chance to sit with her?) but I have sometimes been checking out the Flickr photo stream (the Daily Beast said, all of those photos on Flickr are like a G-rated "still-life ChatRoulette.") as well as the performance streamed live during museum hours (although understandably, yet very annoyingly, for only a few seconds at a time before having to refresh the screen). And now, of course, something that may have had egalitarian ambitions (anyone with the hours to spend waiting in line can sit in front of her) has now, sadly and quite naturally, become a thang to do and be seen (check out the Marina Abramovic Flickr stream or MOMA's, with all of the celebs, and the regular folks too) but that doesn't take away my fascination with The Artist is Present.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 11:19 PM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.