I took my undergraduate photography class recently to see The Artist is Present show at Moma, the work of Marina Abramovic. As a straight photographer, and an artist who was not entirely convinced with most performance art that I had seen, I had some trouble explaining to them just what they were seeing and experiencing. It was more new to them, though, than it was new to me. I think I was a bit better equipped for some of the intensity and spectacle.
Well, it's performance art. Well, it's living sculpture. Well, it's like theatre. A diorama, a spectacular, a tableau, like the living panoramas just before the prior turn of the century. It's also a challenge, a threat. An intervention. It's entertainment?
Without coming to any conclusions, one thing I do understand is the power of images. A colleague told me about the museum's Flickr page. Remeber the person with the long lens camped out in the main area, where Abramovic was seated in her Snuggie-esque robe? The photographer was shooting every person who sat opposite the artist, and took note of the time spent staring at her, and being stared at, by her, by us. It's fascinating. Check out the people who repeat themselves, who kept coming back. You can't help but wonder about who they are, especially the man with the tears. But you also start to wonder about each and every person's reasons for being there. It's almost as intense to see the almost photo-booth-like mugshots of these museum-goer participants. They gaze off to the side, and it's unnerving. Take a look, then experience the show, which is up through the end of the month. Look, but please don't touch.