For years, Marina Abramovic was one of those radical artists who make their wildest peers seem tame
. As one of the great pioneers of performance art, her medium was herself, and she played fast and loose with it. In a piece called "Rhythm O" from 1974, the year before she fled to the West from her native Yugoslavia, she set out 72 objects and implements, from an ax to a red rose, and invited her audience to apply them to her body. In a nerve-wracking performance from 1980, she held a bow so that its arrow pointed at her heart; facing her, a fellow artist named Ulay, her boyfriend and collaborator, drew the bowstring that put her life at risk. In a piece from 1977, less risky but in some ways more unnerving, Abramovic and Ulay stood nude, facing each other on the two sides of a doorway and leaving barely enough room between them for someone to pass through. Anyone who wanted to enter or leave the gallery had to brush against their naked body parts. Those wild years have passed. In "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present," her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art -- the first comprehensive show she's had in the United States -- Abramovic, now 63, has let herself become a work of art like any other.
The museum has tamed her. From 14 March to 31 May 2010, a major retrospective and performance recreation is underway at the Museum of Modern Art. During the run of the exhibition, Marina Abramovic is performing "The Artist is Present" a 600-hour static, silent piece, in which she will sit immobile, while spectators are invited to take turns sitting opposite her. She sits at a table in the open atrium, waiting for visitors to sit down and gaze into her eyes. Considering that her other performances have included cutting herself with knives, having guns pointed at her, and lying in a ring of fire, this is a drastic change of pace for Abramovic. Even this, however, will challenge her with her longest performance yet, an 11-week run of staring at strangers. Beyond her performance, the upstairs exhibit has videos and photos from her career, plus five other performances going on with handpicked performers acting out some of her pieces.
The queue is a dynamic unto itself. The line starts (or ends) with a little waist-high sign at the entrance to the performance space, wraps around behind a wide square pillar, and then continues down the next side of the square. Some waiters stand, some sit. There are no stanchions or wires to demarcate the line from the rest of the atrium, and the exhibit guards — jovial types, and extremely protective of Abramovic — do not intervene in its organization. Because galleries branch off from the atrium, not to mention MoMA's bookstore, foot traffic is heavy, and it can be hard to tell at a glance who is really waiting, and who is merely pausing to take in the action on her way to the café or the Picasso show.
When Marina Abramovic concludes her piece, on May 31, she will have spent 716 hours and 30 minutes sitting down opposite a succession of more than 1,000 people, and counting. Where she sits, in the atrium on the MoMA's second floor, has to be the most overlooked area of the whole museum: while I waited, faces appeared, paused, and then vanished on balconies and at windows on each of the floors above. It goes something like this: Marina looks at you, you look at Marina, and hundreds of other people look at you and Marina looking at each other. The guy ahead of me in line, a burly, bearded man in a flannel shirt and work boots so unscuffed I took them for a fashion statement, had come to the MoMA four times and never succeeded in sitting down with her. (That day he'd cleared his schedule.) We talked about how we so rarely look at each other in daily life. When two adult strangers make eye accidental contact, we hasten to look away. "It's like we're scared of connecting," he said. It's a hard thing, to really see another person, and to be scrutinized yourself in return.( Collapse )
all the images are uploaded to this flickr
(click if you want to see a lot of old/ugly people/hipsters(ugly people))