Friday, May 14, 2010

Marina Redux

So I finally made it up to MoMA to see the Marina Abramovic installation/exhibition, and I have to say that I walked away from the show feeling kind of...assaulted.

I had the afternoon free, and planned on seeing the Abramovic show and then checking out the William Kentridge AND the Henri Cartier-Bresson, all stuff I really wanted to see. But I found, after viewing all of the pieces in the Abramovic show, and simply just feeling that she was downstairs, that I just was emotionally exhausted and could not, would not, look at another piece of art. I was distracted and unfocused. I felt like I had endured walking, crucifixion, screaming, dancing, pointing, staring, being tied together, nudity, holding a mirror, holding a bowl of milk, running into columns, breathing each other's air, laying on ice, washing bones, nudity, self-mortification, whipping, smashing into each other, slapping, driving in circles, and a breakup.

I did walk through the 2 nude people in the doorway (making sure to face the guy, since you had mentioned that most people face the woman). I thought after doing it that it's more sensible to face the shorter person so you have more face space, maybe that's why people face the woman?) I watched the changing of the guard of the crucified woman, and I laid down on the "Green Dragon", a bed made of copper with a green quartz "pillow" and tried to get my energy to align (note: the back of my head still hurts from that ersatz pillow, and I'm not sure if I achieved any enlightenment or inspiration).

Photo from

The only other time I've ever felt like this as a result of an art exhibit was at the Bruce Nauman show at MoMA in 1995. It was filled with solitary squares for sitting in loneliness, a video of a clown laughing and crying, ropes tied like defiant arms, a video of someone slapping themselves (or was it 2 people slapping each other? I can't remember), a violin that played the notes D-E-A-D over and over (and could be heard throughout the exhibition over the sound of the crying/laughing clown and the slapping), and overall, the sound of metal taxidermied animal forms that were tied by their necks from a spinning frame that dragged on the floor. I think I walked all the way home from that show and cried on my couch. At the time I thought it was just me.

But the artist being present (and downstairs) and looking so tired and enduring, made this show more disturbing and more powerful. But I found that I didn't want to participate in the staring contest...I didn't want to be a part of the show at all, not even to take photographs (which people were doing like crazy). All in all...??? more pondering is in order. Surprisingly, I didn't dream about any of it that night.

Maybe, overall, I felt like I had endured something.

On a related note, I love this post by Paddy Johnson on Art Fag City (a great art blog/column) that references a 2004 article by Robert Schorr discussing how only good looking artists get naked (except for Vito Acconci!). Agreed. I think I had this thought sometime last year when I saw a Carolee Schneeman show in Chelsea...glad to be validated.


Beth Tondreau said...

I can see why you'd feel assaulted. MoMA's Marina Megashow is indeed onslaught. I don't think I mentioned that most people face the woman, but I did use the word "hurlyburly." What's so smart—or is it manipulative?—is how everything you described is a circus contrasted with Abramovic looking like a Madame Tussaud's figure of herself. In Gopnik's piece (I read only the short version), I love Gopnik's description of Nauman's art as "disturbingly right." Disturbing is the key, I think.

If my memory serves me right, Faulkner wrote a lot about enduring in his novels (note to self: reread Faulkner). Certainly in his Nobel acceptance speech he wrote a lot about enduring, ending with "The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail." Substitute "art" for "poetry." It seems to me Abramovic is enduring to prevail (and perhaps to maniupulate) and is prevailing on her "collaborators" to endure.

Paddy Johnson's Artfagcity post touches a few chords. Yup. Marina Abramovic is gorgeous. I noticed that as well. Beauty makes it easier to fearless. Fearlessness makes it easier to have a point. (Being tall helps, too). Good for Vito Acconci, for succeeding with his smarts and voice.


The Kentridge show is worth seeing--and in a way, is a bit more inspiring than the Abramovic. It's certainly less upsetting.

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

Wow, I am feeling exhausted after this post and I didn't even live the experience...
Nice to have a little one to hug and giggle with to gain some equilibrium.

Beth Tondreau said...

Arthur Danto on Marina Abramovic bringing back the magic.