Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Artist Is Present

I went to the MoMA on Friday to see the Tim Burton exhibit. I thought I would write a blog post about it to share with all of you. But I quickly abandoned that idea. Because, while Burton's work was certainly inspiring, it was not the exhibit that I became obsessed with at the museum that day.
What I did become obsessed with surprised me.

I am not the right person to give you a history on Marina Abramovic's work. I know nothing about her. But on Friday she sat, cloaked in blue, in the middle of a huge open space on a wooden chair with a person directly opposite her. There was a wooden table in the middle. And that was all. When I first walked by, I assumed this was staged. I figured I was supposed to watch two people staring at one another all day and think, "Oh my, how clever these Slavic nations are with their very pale, tall people being all art-tastic."

But as I became transfixed upon their staring contest, I wanted to know more. I learned that the exhibit is called "The Artist is Present" and that it was not staged. In fact, anyone could walk up and sit in the chair opposite her and join in. Anyone. And this really intrigued me. A rotating cast of characters were going to join her at that table all day. For 3 months. And when they did. Anything at all could happen. Or nothing could happen.

Well. This just about blew my mind.

I found myself completely absorbed with what might happen. I waited for one participant to get up so a new one could rotate in. I watched every small movement each one of them made. She moved her hand to her knee! I saw it! I felt like exclaiming. My goodness, ANYTHING can happen. Did you know that? I felt like telling people. Anything! To be honest with you, in my time spent there (and as much as I hate to admit it, it was a significant amount of time) not much happened. But the possibility kept me there. The idea that something could.

I'm sure a lot of people asked, "Why?" I know I certainly did, at first. But it made me think about why I engage in any activity. Why I go to a museum in the first place. Why I travel to a new country. Why I talk to a person I don't know. Why I write. Why I read. Because two people can sit across the table from one another and anything in the world can happen. And that inspired me more than you can imagine.

For more information on Marina Abramovic's work:


  1. I love, love, love your last paragraph. I can't comment on it as beautifully as you wrote it, but you captured the essence of what I love about these same things (reading, writing, traveling, chatting with a stranger). Great post.

  2. Thanks Lori! I appreciate your comments more than you can imagine and am so glad we feel similar ways about the same things :-)

  3. I love how you interpreted that as being so open to possibility. Yes, anything can happen in any given moment, but I doubt most people would see that exhibit and feel your excitement that anything could happen. I certainly wouldn't have!

    Did you sit across from her? I guess if you had, you would have mentioned it. If you had... what would you have done? Tried to provoke a reaction by smiling? Scowling? Making a face?