“The artist has to be a warrior. Has to have this determination, and has to have the stamina to conquer not just new territory but also to conquer himself and his weaknesses.”
–Marina Abramovic, The Artist is Present
I remember the first time I was introduced to Marina Abramovic’s work. A reenactment of her piece, The House with the Ocean View was featured on the popular television series Sex and the City. In that particular episode, Carrie and Charlotte visit a gallery to see the performance. Challenging the message of the performance, Carrie states, “If you put a phone up on that platform, it’s just a typical Friday night, waiting for some guy to call” (Season Six: Episode 12). While presented as a joke, there is a measure of truth in Carrie’s analysis. And, perhaps that was Abramovic’s intent all along. When Abramovic’s work is deconstructed, the message becomes very simple. Abramovic emphasizes the everyday struggle to be present in our lives. Slowing down, taking time to reflect, and looking inward are often themes in the narrative of Abramovic’s work.
This WordPress post today is part of an assignment for my Fine Arts class. Abramovic is featured in our text book, and it was during this class I discovered Abramovic’s documentary film The Artist is Present, which documents her retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 2010. For this installation, Abramovic created a performance piece that allowed museum visitors to come and sit in front of her individually. Abramovic remained in the gallery from the time it opened until it closed every day of the exhibition, seated, as audience members came to sit before her. Performance art is defined by an aspect of audience participation. And in this piece, Abramovic acted as a mirror to those people who sat opposite her. For some, the experience was deeply emotional, for others a brief exchange. But, through it all Abramovic made herself present and available. This was Abramovic’s purpose. To connect the audience with themselves, acting as a symbolic bridge, Abramovic incorporated audience participation in an effort to encourage viewers to slow down, and engage in connection. While not every attendee sat with Abramovic, approximately 850,000 people visited the gallery during Abramovic’s installation. The impact of Abramovic’s work is evident in her mass following that includes pop culture icons like Lady Gaga and Jay Z. I encourage you to discover Marina Abramovic’s work, and experience this powerful artist.
Akers, Matthew. The Artist is Present. Perf. Marina Abramovic. HBO Documentary Films, 2012. DVD.
King, Michael Patrick. Sex and the City Season Six: Episode 12. Perf. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Dixon. HBO Video, 2004. DVD.