This afternoon I went to the Museum of Modern Art in New York to see the special exhibition of Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present (additional information available at http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/965 ). Commentary on artwork below (spoiler warning).
One of the interesting pieces was a live demonstration of 2 models posed face-to-face in a doorway between exhibit halls, so that the museum attendees squeezed between them to get to the next exhibit. There was a second doorway about 60' away, so it was possible to get to the next exhibit without walking between them, but after watching a few people slide between them and into the next room, it seemed strange to walk around. One model was female and the other was male, both in good physical condition. The most interesting aspects were that 1) when you walked between them, it turned out that there was an unorchestrated crowd gathered on the other side to watch your reaction as you did so - you, as the walker, became part of the art for the audience, 2) there was a video playing on the other side of the doorway showing people walking through a similar live-nude-doorway at a prior exhibition, so it felt a bit like you were part of a movie, and 3) all of the people who walked through the doorway (both male and female) turned to face the female model as they did so. Are we as a society just more comfortable with nude women? I didn't consciously consider which way I faced as I walked through, but my charming male companion absolutely considered it and decided he'd rather look at a nude woman than a man. As it turned out, I looked at the exhibit hall ahead and tried not to bump either model with my bag, and he looked at his feet because he became concerned about stepping on their bare toes. Image courtesy of NYpost.com
There was also an interesting piece that had a live nude woman on a ledge at about table height, lying on her back with a faux skeleton lying on top of her, facing up. As she breathed the skeleton moved up and down. The commentary on the piece explained that Abramović thought the piece brought the model closer to understanding of and comfort with her own death. I'd buy that. It was a very intriguing mix of morbidity and sensuality; limbs entwined but bare of flesh, the model's youth and softness contrasted with the bone, and the entire sculpture moving together. The model was both smothered by and embracing the skeleton, and it was beautiful. Abramović's commentary on the impact on the model resonated with me because in the art that I have created with Blair where we draw the poems onto the model's body, I have tried to be careful with how the model is impacted by the process. I have found greater artistic success when the writing resonates with the model, and greater personal reward when the model feels enriched by the experience. I haven't tried many poems for that project that aren't sensual or playful - forcing a model to confront or embrace death may be a little extreme at this point, but it would be interesting to emotionally stretch the art a bit and see where it leads. My recent work has been heavier and longer than previous writing, so it may be a ripe opportunity for that.
Finally, Abramović herself was part of the exhibit. This was not surprising, since the exhibit was a chronology focusing on her expression, body, experiences, values, etc. She seems to have done a lot of pushing-physical-limits and exhibitionism for the sake of (under the guise of?) artwork. In the piece at MOMA she sits motionless at a table in the center of a hall under bright lights, and audience members can join her at the table, and also sit motionless and stare back at her. The people we saw participate in the art were all young women. Granted, we weren't there watching consistently, but we wondered what the %s look like.
C'est tout for now. I'm learning 2-minute italian in the car: arrivederchi.
19 hours ago