Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Artist is Present

Artist Marina Abromovic is engaged in a performance art peice and she wants You to be part of it. The exhibit, entitled "The Artist is Present" involves Abromovic sitting in a chair in an open space with football stadium lighting and an empty chair across from her. That is, until the long winding line advances and one of the many patrons who have been waiting patiently before the museum opened its doors, sits in aformentioned chair. Then begins the interactive portion of the exhibit... People who have taken part in the performance art exhibit have described it as an emotional experience. You sit across from her, and eventually, like a Barbara Walters interview, participants get choked up. Tears streaming, one at a time, the defeated calmly gets up and walks away offering the seat to the next challenger.

But don't be fooled. This is no staring contest. So what is going on in Marina's head, body, energy, to evoke such a response? And what prompts her to, at times, look away and put her head down in a suggestion that certain patrons leave the seat? All of these questions are exact reason people continue to line up and wait patiently for hours. Because by all accounts, its just something you have to experience to understand.

So what is the point? I'd like to know, and Ill assume you would to... Well, by the artists own admission, this isnt really about the audience, per se. Its a study on the longevity of performance art as a medium. What happens if one performance artist, performs the same exhibit day in and day out for three months, as Abramovic is currently doing for the first time ever. Is it the same show by day 60 as it was at day 2? And what happens if said artist passes away, does their art survive them, can it be replicated, recreated? And most importantly, I suppose, what is the audience member taking away with them when they leave a performance art show?

Well, by accounts of this show, audience members are taking away a provocative experience, causing some to re-examine the way they interact with others on a daily basis. "I sit across from people on the subway everyday" said one visitor, "and I never really look at people...their feelings, their expressions, the emotions, its all there." Well, Marina's intentions may not have anything to do with social change, but for the audiences part, people seem to be walking away with a profound experience, that has altered the way they interact with others... Atleast for the ride home anyway.

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Picture c/o aol.com

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