MoMA’s current exhibit, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, created quite a stir recently–resulting in the museum having to revoke one man’s 30-year membership. I read the New Yorker’s backgrounder on Abramovic a couple of months ago and looked forward to seeing this exhibit (though it does seem a bit like idol worship/megalomania when the actual artist is present at a retrospective). Above is Marina Abramovic herself, sitting face-to-face with some random person in the audience, which she has agreed to do everyday for the duration of the exhibition at MoMA. The remaining exhibits comprise a performance retrospective covering over 40 years of Abramovic’s work, using live performers to recreate past pieces–pieces that often require performers to be nude. Hence the hubbub: naked people + the immense crowds usually at MoMA = rowdiness.
Despite all the publicity, the exhibit is definitely worth a visit. To enter, you need to walk through a narrow hall flanked by two naked people facing each other. And it was really narrow: it’s not possible to pass through without brushing against *both* performers. The idea is to make the audience tense as they squeeze through the entrance, but also causing a sense of relief upon reaching the open space on the other side.
As opposed to the entrance, I found the rest of the exhibit to be more tense for me: they consisted of videos or live performances of Abramovic’s other pieces that were more about self-flagellation than anything else. But I suppose that’s what makes the retrospective so good: whether you like it or not, it’s impossible to not have an emotional reaction.
Exhibit ends May 31. On second thought, it is kinda cool that the Artist Is Present…