Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present

I found this very touching video about the communication of only looking into someone’s eyes.

Marina Abramović is a Serbian performance artist who works with the interaction between artist and observer, and the limits of the mind and body. Check out her Wikipedia page here. She is controversial, creative, courageous, and many other adjectives but definitely a force in the world.

This video is a bit of The Artist is Present performance art at the Museum of Modern Art. The artist sat in a chair and audience members would sit in a chair opposite and they would just look at each other. Ulay was Ms Abramović’s collaborator and lover for 12 years, but they hadn’t seen each other for 30 years. He came to MOMA and sat opposite her.

It still makes me tear up every time I see it, such powerful emotions but not a word is said.

There is an HBO documentary (below). Watch it if you can. It’s 1 3/4 hour. It’s all interesting but the last part is about The Artist is Present at MOMA. You will see person after person after person sitting across from the artist. She closes her eyes after each one, and when the next sits down she opens her eyes to gaze directly into their eyes, no looking around, no figeting, only the direct, concentrated gaze at the person in the other chair. It was something to just watch it. I can only imagine being one of the people across from her.

According to the Wikipedia article, Ms Abramović sat across from 1545 people, 736+ hours over the space of 2 1/2 months, sitting without moving, only gazing at the person in the other chair. She said that the show changed her life “completely – every possible element, every physical emotion”.  People lined up to participate even camped outside the museum so they could be sure to get in line the next morning.

Another interesting work was Rhythm 0, 1974. The artist (who would resist nothing that happened) and 72 objects were on a table for the audience to use in any way they wished. After 6 hours the artist was naked, bruised, and bleeding. Factions in the audience who wanted to harm her were fighting with those who wanted to protect her. When it was over she got up and walked towards the audience, “she said the audience left, unable to face her as a person”.

For me though, The Artist is Present is the most powerful. Like the refugees and European individuals I shared in Connection, to see someone, to really look at them and really see them…  she made a space in the middle of a crowded room where there was only that connection between two people.



About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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13 Responses to Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present

  1. Powerful, Kris! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Wow.. you’re right; it’s powerful.. and yes, it made me tear up as well…


  3. Phew!!!!…. Just catching my breath between my sobs.. ❤ and oh boy… this so spoke to my soul.. xx 🙂 xxx


  4. Elizabeth says:

    Drew and I were at MOMA in New York during The Artist is Present and saw her doing this! The gallery about her work was very impressive and is something I still think about.


  5. WoW! What a profound reunion! So obvious that they had carried one another’s spirits in their hearts throughout their physical separation; there was no separation, really for either of them. Beautiful.


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