Marina Abramovic ended her unprecedented 716-hour performance yesterday afternoon. I watched the live MoMA webcam to witness the last hour of the performance. It was oddly emotional, despite the low tech-ness of the webcam. The guards seemed to give sitters a time limit of around five minutes. Some of the sitters were people who had been there before, and they seemed to be saying both goodbye and thank you to Abramovic. She was moved to tears, and seemed truly overcome with emotion. The last sitter (who may have been a friend of hers, I’m not sure) sat for around eight minutes, then rose from his chair and walked over to Abramovic. He gently cupped her face in his hands and placed a soft kiss on her cheek. She bowed her head, then rose up from her chair. A series of guards ushered into the performance space to remove the chairs.
Even though there was no sound on the webcam, it was clear that the audience was giving her an ovation. She looked relieved, elated, happy. Then the actors who were re-enacting her performances upstairs surrounded her and Abramovic gave each of them a hug. Then she hugged all of the museum guards with whom she had shared a work space with for duration of her performance. She reached out to some of the audience members as well. There were throngs of television cameras and reporters there to capture her final moments. I think art lovers and skeptics alike were surprised by how moved they were by the performance. What I take away from it is the simplicity, the earnestness of it all. How intimate it can be to look at a stranger, to share the mental and emotional space with someone else, and to witness that intimacy.
My brother and his girlfriend are patiently waiting for their baby to be born. Heather is an amazing pregnant woman, and even while she was having a contraction today in the Arsenal Mall, she was still game enough to make fun of the ridiculous beach hats at Marshall’s.
So in anticipation of the first grandchild, my mom is in town, which means there’s a lot more family time than studio time. Which is just fine with me. Them wires ain’t going nowhere.
In lieu of a studio update, I suggest you read this great review of life in the line at MoMA for those trying to get a seat with Marina Abramovic.
(P.S.: this photo was taken by my friend Lindsey Wolkowicz on our visit to the exhibition.)
The thing I was most excited to do on this long weekend to NYC was to check out Marina Abramovic’s retrospective at MoMA. My lovely friend and fellow artist Lindsey Wolkowicz joined me at the museum, and holy cannoli were our minds blown. Note to other artists putting on a retrospective: this is how it’s done (yeah, I’m talking to you, Marlene Dumas).
How does a performance artist display her work? How can the ephemeral intimacy adequately be reproduced in and for a museum? Well for starters, her work and life have been thoroughly, nearly manically documented. Film footage, photographs, and objects used in various performances were all displayed. But the second-most amazing feature of this show was the use of live models that re-created some of her most stunning performances. Most were nude. All were engaged in physically exhausting acts. There was a woman standing on platforms mounted eight feet up the wall holding her arms up and out from her body. For seven hours. There was another draped under a skeleton. Two nude models stood like sentries at the gallery entrance, a man and a woman. The space was narrowed so that you had to choose which gender to face, whose body you would brush up against (in a transgressive move, Lindsey and I both chose to face the male model).
But the most amazing element of the exhibition was in the atrium of the museum. There in the center of the cavernous space sat Marina Abramovic herself, dressed in a blood red, floor-length gown at a simple wooden table. Visitors were invited to sit at the chair opposite Abramovic, motionless, and engage in what amounted to the most intense staring contest I’ve ever witnessed. For the duration of the exhibit (through May 31) she will sit at that table, from museum open to close. She does not move; she does not take a break. Fittingly, the title of this piece is The Artist Is Present. And is she ever. It is one thing to view an artist’s life’s work; it is quite another to view it knowing that the artist is in the flipping building. Abramovic marks each completed day of the performance with a black line on the wall of the atrium. It serves to show the passing of time, but reminiscent of a prisoner’s marks on his cell wall. She seemed completely at ease, so perhaps the marks were meant for us: as a reminder of her endurance and our voyeurism. The title of this piece might better be The Artist Is A Present. When work is done right, like hers, it’s most definitely a gift.
It’s always wonderful to be in New York. Cities are the most relaxing places, I think. You want to be invisible? Be invisible. You want to put on a show? Put on a show. You can talk or not talk for hours in a city. You can move fast or slow. Stick out or blend in. It’s heavenly.
I’ve just been taking the dogs on walks and reading, but i just got here yesterday. This morning, Penny took a dump in front of the Pace Wildenstein Gallery on W 22nd, which I found positively cosmopolitan. She did this right after we passed Malcolm Gladwell walking down the street, which gave her business a nice literary feel to it.
I’m going to see the Marina Abramovic retrospective tomorrow at MoMA. I’m pretty excited. Until then, I’m just going to move slow, walking the dogs.
I am writing this from the plane, the only perk I’ve received on this otherwise dreadful morning. The airport in Milwaukee is an abomination. It is one thing to espouse a “never forget” attitude vis-a-vis airport security; it is quite another to be equipped to carry out such security. There was a TSA guy who saw my frustrated look and asked what was wrong. I said, the ticketing and baggage processes, primarily. He said, in a familiar midwestern know-it-all-ness that I find particularly terrible, “Well, the airport is over fifty years old.” I said, “So are the rest of them.” When he started to cock his head in such a way that I knew he was going to challenge me on this because he’s just the kind of guy that needs to be right, I chirped, “In fact, the really busy ones are old and they handle ten times the amount of passengers in half the time.” He was craning his head so far at this point, searching for something, anything to disprove what I said (which by the way, are facts I made up. But I bet they’re not too far off.) So before he coughed up a retort, I bade him a nice day and ran to the gate.
I finished my painting work in Milwaukee yesterday, but not before I found out I was rejected from the Renegade Brooklyn craft fair. Ugh. It really made me blue in a way that rejections don’t usually affect me. My work is fine art, but I really thought the sheer smallness of these paintings would knock them down to craft status. No dice. Once I get back home, I will regroup, I will refocus.
Waiting for the plane to taxi down the runway, I read an article in last week’s New Yorker about the performance artist Marina Abramovic‘s upcoming retrospective at MoMA. The first time I became familiar with her work was at the 1997 Venice Biennale, where she sat in a basement of an old palazzo cleaning cattle bones for 60 straight days. The smell was unbearable. But I never forgot it. Years later, when she did a performance piece in New York where she lived in a gallery for three weeks on raised platforms with only ladders with upturned knife blades, I started paying more and more attention to her work. Her work is about endurance, about pain, about being without, and about vulnerability. Halfway through the article, I realized that I am much more a Marina Abramovic (no matter how flip some of my paintings are) than I am a clever crafter with a punny name or a banner or a slick website or a punchline. I never fell in with any crafting set, and while I still hope to sell my small paintings in those kinds of venues, I think it’s healthy. Not being a part of something, not having all the answers seems to be good for me. I am uninterested in yarn. I have no screen printer nor potter’s wheel; I have no hook rugs, I have no pinking shear. I am Marina Abramovic, instructing guests on my Hudson Valley farm to walk in slow motion through an orchard for three hours, thinking only of questions.