I am not a person who follows art. I do not understand performance art, or grasp abstract. I like the pretty landscapes or sculptures, preferring Van Gogh’s flowers and the Renaissance works of the pre-Raphaelites like John Everett Millais’sÂ Ophelia.
However, five years ago, I heard of a performance piece by Marina Abramovic, a performance artist from Yugoslavia. Abramovic has done collaborations with Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z, and is friends with James Franco, so she is not completely unfamiliar to pop culture, but her piece, The Artist is Present (2010) is what stuck out for me. Â It was a simple concept, the MoMA in New York spanned her four decade career by having other people re-create her former works, while she also performed. Her installation was a 736 hour ordeal of silence. She sat on a table while people sat opposite her for two minutes, not speaking.
Why is that moving, really? Until you bring up Ulay, her former partner and lover from 1976-1988. Ulay showed up on the first night of her installation, and the two minutes they spent together was, shattering.
You could see her eyes water and eventually drop a few tears. She could not speak, and neither could he. He shook his head a few times, and smiled a little. She could not help herself and reached out to take his hands in hers for a few seconds. After two minutes, he left.
My head just runs through all the feelings she would have felt. She could not speak, memories flooded her brain. If she wanted to yell because he sprung himself at her when she was at a public, vulnerable space. This is purely my musings, however, a flood of thoughts and theories from seeing the video footage of their encounter.
If you were afforded the same opportunity, would you do it? To be able to just sit, stare and not speak to someone who you loved, and loved you so much you thought you were one person. A person you gave your life and heart to, decades later becoming someone part of who you used to be, and is not part of your present.
The idea is so basic, elemental to the heart, and for me, what great art is supposed to make you feel something, and make you think.
So tell me, how present are you?