Monday, May 31, 2010

Marina Abramović

I sat on the floor of MoMA, my butt sore from the previous nights caning and watched Marina Abramović for the final two and a half hours of her marathon performance in which she sat in a chair for the entire length of her retrospective The Artist is Present while the public was invited to sit silently across from her: 75 days, 736 hours and 30 minutes, and over 1,500 sitters. It was my second time there, the first time was about seeing the work in the show itself, the second time was about seeing her.

As the clock ticked closer and closer to 5:00, the excitement, tension, security guards and camera crews increased. Klaus Biesenbach (director of PS.1) the last sitter, rose from the chair when his time was up and kissed her on both cheeks. Marina dropped to her knees and then stood to a roar of applause and cheers from the crowd. The chairs were taken away and she did a little Mary Tyler Moore turn as the group of lab coat clad volunteers who had been recreating her work a floor above surrounded her. Surprisingly energetic and alert, she looked like someone had just presented her with a giant birthday cake with her name on it. It was beautiful.

Over the past couple of months, I'd gotten to know more of her work and found myself effected by it in a way I haven't experienced with a piece of art in a long time, meaning kind of turned on.

It really all came together when I saw The Artist is Absent in which Abramović's performances were recreated by people from NYC’s radical queer underground and BDSM / kinky communities. Seeing these works being performed in person was so much more powerful and seeing them performed by people of so many different genders, colors and sizes made it even more thought provoking and well... hot.

Some examples of her performances:

Rhythmn 0
Various objects (including perfume, a flower, a knife, a whip, a gun and a single bullet) are placed on a table with a sign saying:

There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.
I am the object.
During this period I take full responsibility.

Breathing In / Breathing Out (Marina and Ulay pictured above):
We are kneeling face to face,
pressing our mouths together.

Our noses are blocked with filtertips.

I am breathing in oxygen.
I am breathing out carbon dioxide.

I am breathing in oxygen.
I am breathing out carbon dioxide.

I am breathing in oxygen.
I am breathing out carbon dioxide.

Light / Dark
We kneel face to face.
Our faces are lit by two strong lamps.
Alternately, we slap each other's faces until one of us stops.

Relation in Time
Two people sit back to back, tied together by their hair, unmoving (17 hours)

Of course, these are just a few examples of decades worth of work and not all of them have such blatant kinky connections. But most of her work does deal with pushing the limits of the mind and body in one way or another and as a kinkster, it was worth seeing a master at work.

The End

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