Tuesday, May 4, 2010
While in NY last month I visited the MOMA and was captivated by the show entitled
"The Artist Is Present."
Marina Abramovic has been a performance artist for over 30 years and is tauted to be the "Grandmother of Performance Art" I think this moniker is apropos. The main piece in the show, where she sits at a table bare of anything and stares at willing participants that take a seat across from her as long as they can withstand, coincides with a retrospective on her art that spans 4 decades and is a passionate display of the artists life's work. One piece she replicated using nude models, where she and her husband once stood, serving as a walkway in which the patron has to pass through two naked bodies standing 4 inches apart serves as the central confrontational piece of the show. I walked around the nude couple,, but once on the other side knew I was missing something, she intended to get the viewer involved to feel the confrontation, to be part of the art. So I went back. The feeling that came over me as I walked through the couple was mixed with embarrassment and giddiness and fear of invading someones space. As you pass through them on the other side is a video playing of the piece Marina and her ex husband/partner Uley did in the 1970's and it was fascinating to observe how many people faced the woman and not the man, how many people were laughing and almost everyone had a smile on their face. Like as if they were children who had just gotten away with something bad.
There was a definite transference when passing through the nude bodies. In her work, Marina Abromovic set out to see if she could change the energy frequency and shift something intrinsically in people. In such a meditative state as these models must be in I can't help but think this is true. It makes me wonder what they were contemplating, or were they perhaps sending a brainwave or thought to each person as they passed through? As I braved myself to walk through the two bodies that stood before me like gates, I decided I would face the man, but went very quickly through and could not find it in me to make eye contact. Maybe that is a part of the piece as well, to ponder what makes us uncomfortable. Can you allow yourself to be part of it or only an observer passing through?