Jeremy Irons + Christina's World

I was lucky enough to stop by New York City (all too briefly!) this weekend to see Marina Abramovic's special exhibition at the MoMA, and I'm so happy that I did.

Upon entering the atrium space, one is given the opportunity to interact with Abramovic in her performance piece entitled The Artist Is Present (which is the same title as the exhibition overall). In a large sectioned off area at the center of the room, patrons of the museum basically took turns having staring contests with her, facing her in a chair. On the exhibition's website, you can scan through the various faces of people that have sat down with Abramovic over her 2 month (so far) stay. Some sit for 7 minutes, 13 minutes, some for an hour or more (I was warmly satisfied to see that performance artist Tehching Hsieh was one of them, as well as Abramovic's longtime collaborative partner, Ulay). As for the day I went, a young woman was working on her fifth hour with the artist.

Many are moved to tears, and I can understand why - I was a bit tender while looking at several of her powerful pieces/performances in the retrospective, spanning much of her productive career.

photo from MoMA website.

If you haven't seen Abramovic's work, it is mostly performance based, and has to do with the body and the interactions between people, and perhaps of the resilience and strength within the fragility of being human (and often deals a lot with the boundary between viewer and artist). I feel as though some of those ideas from which Abramovic makes her art are similar to the ones I find myself dealing with and finding significant - and yet, I see our works manifesting differently. I'm not reminded of myself, but perhaps of someone I know very well.

I particularly was drawn to the collaborative pieces that Abramovic made with Ulay. I've been reading about how some people aren't really into the re-performed pieces without Marina herself. And I totally understand. Does a piece have nearly as much resonance without the presence of the artist herself? But for me, I still got a lot out of the live performances. For me - as much as the performances were theirs, and as magnetic they are, the acts were still revealing/showing mystic truths, as it were, without them. It was compelling to see humans doing these actions of intensity and endurance. It was compelling to see their strain and in some cases, watery eyes. To see their sustained interactions with each other. They were no less genuine to me coming from another person. Now obviously, who wouldn't want to see Abramovic and Ulay perform these? It belongs, more or less, to them. But knowing that they never rehearsed their performances before exhibiting them originally, it almost feels like a comparable loss to only see them recount it as opposed to seeing it explored that first time. I'd go see that, too, in case you're wondering.

While in NYC, I had also really really hoped to go to the Monica Canilao exhibition at Cinders, but we ran out of time (!) with all that we were doing. We did, however, get to see a theatrical production in the East Village, which my friend had done sound for, called The Really Big Once. It ended up being a layered and seamlessly disjointed narrative surrounding the failure of Tennessee Williams' production of Ten Blocks on the Camino Real, and was performed wonderfully, resonating well into the night.

A round of applause for you, Big Apple.