Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Artist Is Present (2010)

In 2010, New York City's MoMA mounted a Marina Abramović retrospective. Shortly after the opening I was flipping through the channels of my television when I came upon Lady Gaga seated across the desk from her interviewer, CNN's Larry King, who, at the time, was nearing the end of his 25 years at the network, and who, it seemed, had little left in the tank for anything other than getting off the air.

After King read the first question, Gaga responded with a non-sequitir: how blown away she was by the Abramović exhibition. In an effort to work with Gaga's declaration, King asked the singer to tell "us" why. But Gaga could not get the words out -- or at least not in an order that made any sense.

One of the most talked about art works in Abramović's exhibition is The Artist Is Present (2010), where the artist shares a minute with those lined up to share that minute with her -- Abramović on one side of a table, the patron on the other.

The video above is from the opening day of Abramović's exhibition, where the artist is surprised by her former lover and collaborator, Ulay. For those who might mistake this video for a performance document, consider the camera work, the music, and the sentiment that causes Abramović to break from her shared face into one for whom those perplexed by her medium tend to lean on when it comes to meaning.

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