“This Is An Enormous Amount of Eyes”

Posted by @ 2:44 pm on June 2nd, 2010

I have been stark-raving-obsessed with Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present. I’ve spent hours at MoMA; I’ve interacted with the interactive website; I’ve scrolled through the Flikr;  I’ve learned about other obsessives; I’ve read essays and reviews; I’ve watched this nifty video; And yeah, I’ve seen that blog that is just the pictures of people crying. (Love that one.) I know Ken has posted links to it twice since it’s been going on, but I’m posting them again, at risk of redundancy, because to me (and many others) this was a huge moment in art history and I think anyone who is alive and creating things right now should know about it.

Memorial Day was the last day for the exhibit and now Marina has given a pretty interesting exit interview to the WSJ blog Speakeasy. It’s full of such non-native-English-speaker sentences like, They made a lot of interesting drawings of how I pee. I didn’t even have urge. and This is an enormous amount of eyes. The interview also refers to an earlier statement she has made that “nobody ever changes when they do things they like.”

I am not sure if I entirely agree with that but it does raise some interesting questions. I know a lot of writers who say they hate writing, but they do it anyway. I don’t know how to react when someone tells me this. Are they masochists or do they feel like they can’t do anything else?  I often find writing  really difficult and trying, but I almost always like it. So will I never change or grow as a writer because I enjoy it so much?

And is this what Abramovic is even saying? True, her art is full of self-torture– cutting herself, lying naked on a cross of ice, standing or sitting still for hundreds of hours– and unlike most artist retrospectives, her works seem to have become increasingly powerful. Her latest piece is easily the most important, moving, historic and already influential she’s made, which is atypical for an artist that has been working as long as she has. And she’s gotten this far by doing things she didn’t like, by suffering. So… do you suffer? How? Why or why not?

I also want to tell anyone who didn’t get a chance to go to MoMA during this piece that I cannot overstate how many people were moved or obsessed or overwhelmed by this piece. There was a truly strange energy in the room where she was sitting. By the end of the exhibit the place was packed and people were sitting everywhere for hours and hours. To me this illustrates what a deep hunger there is for mediation of some kind in our lives. If my old Zen teacher Ben Wren (this was his real name) was still living, I think he would have had something funny to say about how ridiculously simple and predictable a piece it is. Once in his Zendo we meditated face to face like this– it’s a somewhat common practice– and yeah, it almost goes without saying that it provokes something deeply emotional and strange between the two people staring into each others eyes. Yet people were lining up at five in the morning for a chance to get to sit face to face with Marina. Mrs. Abramovic. Granted, she creates quite a presence and being a part of this collaboration was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but the thing you really could gain from The Artist is Present was the communion between yourself and someone else, be in Marina or the guy standing behind you in line. It’s possible to access this energy wherever you can find another person who has the time.

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