The art of sitting APR 22 2010
At the behest of MoMA, photographer Marco Anelli has been taking photographs of all the people participating in Marina Abramović's performance in the main atrium of the museum and posting them to Flickr. To review:
Abramović is seated in [the atrium] for the duration of the exhibition, performing her new work The Artist Is Present for seven hours, five days a week, and ten hours on Fridays. Visitors are invited to sit silently with the artist for a duration of their choosing.
The photographs are mesmerizing...face after face of intense concentration. A few of the participants even appear to be crying (this person and this one too) and several show up multiple times (the fellow pictured above sat across from Abramović at least half-a-dozen times). The photos are annotated with the duration of each seating. Most stay only a few minutes but this woman sat there for six and a half hours. This woman sat almost as long as was also dressed as the artist. (It would be neat to see graphs of the durations, both per day and as a distribution.)
Update: On the night of the opening exhibition, the third person to sit across from Abramović was her ex-boyfriend and collaborator of many years, Ulay (pictured here on Flickr). James Wescott reports on the scene:
When she looked up again, sitting opposite her was none other than Ulay. A rapturous silence descended on the atrium. Abramović immediately dissolved into tears, and for the first few seconds had trouble meeting Ulay's calm gaze. She turned from superhero to little girl -- smiling meekly; painfully vulnerable. When they did finally lock eyes, tears streaked down Abramović's cheeks; after a few minutes, she violated the conditions of her own performance and reached across the table to take his hands. It was a moving reconciliation scene -- as Abramović, of course, was well aware.
Here's a description of one of the projects they did together in the 70s:
To create this "Death self," the two performers devised a piece in which they connected their mouths and took in each other's exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen. Seventeen minutes after the beginning of the performance they both fell to the floor unconscious, their lungs having filled with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual's ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it.
Wescott also sat across from the artist:
I was immediately stunned. Not by the strength of her gaze, but the weakness of it. She offered a Mona Lisa half-smile and started to cry, but somehow this served to strengthen my gaze; I had to be the mountain.
When I finally sat down before Abramovic, the bright lights blocked out the crowd, the hall's boisterous chatter seemed to recede into the background, and time became elastic. (I have no idea how long I was there.)
Update: The look-alike who sat with Abramović all day did an interview with BOMBLog.
At certain times I thought that we were really in sync. Other times I didn't. Other times I was totally hallucinating. She looked like a childhood friend I once had. Then she looked like a baby. [...] I thought time was flying by. Then time stopped. I lost track of everything. No hunger. No itching. No pain. I couldn't feel my hands.
Update: Singer Lou Reed sat. (thx, bob)
Update: More first-hand accounts from the NY Times.