The Unbearable Banishment: You might not like it, but you won't forget it

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You might not like it, but you won't forget it

I saw the Marina Abramović retrospective at MoMA. Oh, LORD what an eye full of daring art and crap-ola! As with most performance art, there's probably some deeper meanings within these pieces that went way over my head, but I enjoyed the them, nonetheless.

Abramović is a performance artist and MoMA is replicating many of her pieces from her 40-year career. The exhibit includes video installations and living, sometimes naked, human beings. Live! Nude! Girls! (And guys.)

Imponderabilia, from 1977, requires that you squeeze through a very narrow doorway between two naked people. They (the performers) have cast iron guts, because you can't get through the doorway without brushing up against them.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

When I first got there, the doorway was manned by two dudes. I prefer my naked performance art to be somewhat titillating so I browsed around the video installations until shift change and there was a girl present. Tee-hee.

People have gotten a bit too familiar with the performers. There have been at least three instances whereby someone was escorted out of the museum for inappropriate touching, including one old man who was not only thrown out but he had his 30-year membership revoked.

Rest Energy
was a video of Abramović on the wrong end of an arrow. The piece required that someone hold a taunt bow with the arrow pointed at her heart.

Gallery/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In another video, she sat before an industrial strength air blower. It was turned on and she sat in the wind gust until she passed out. In other pieces, she cut herself and/or allowed patrons to cut her with various sharp implements. When these things are done in a cathedral like MoMA, it's performance art. To me, however, there's not much difference between these antics and the ones performed by Johnny Knoxville in the Jackass movies.

Relation in Time requires performers sit for HOURS with their hair braided together.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Nude with Skeleton required a naked performer lie down with a skeleton on top of them. The skeleton was supposed to rise and fall with the breath of the performer but when I was there, the girl performing the piece didn't breathe heavy enough for the bones to move. She was really pretty, though.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

The title of the exhibit, and the new piece she developed for the show, is Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. She sits silent in a chair in the museum's atrium and patrons take turns sitting in an adjoining chair. They proceed to engage in a starring contest. All of the live pieces are manned by a rotating cast of volunteers who are relieved at timed intervals. But for this piece, Abramović will sit in this chair, all day, every day, for the entire run of the show.

When I was there, the actor James Franco was participating, thus giving the out-of-towners the double thrill of seeing bizarre New York art AND a bona fide movie star at the same time.

I was kind of pissed because patrons are made to wait in a long line for their turn to sit with Abramović, but Franco was permitted to enter the museum before it opened and take a seat, thus jumping the queue. Not that I wanted to participate, but it seemed unfair to those who did. Goddamn Hollywood fighetta.


Blogger Leah said...

Sounds fascinating, really really. And you raise an interesting question: Is "Jackass" actually performance art? Possibly so.

May 18, 2010 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

I like the bow and arrow one.
Bit like marriage.

May 19, 2010 at 3:36 AM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

i'm far too childish to attend such exhibits. i'd point and laugh at male genitalia, sit and pull faces at the artist, and generally behave like a 9 year old boy... and i suspect the 'deeper meaning' i would extract would be about the same as if i were a 9 year old boy...

May 19, 2010 at 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you ever do want to sit around having staring competitions with vaguely hostile people, let me know and I'll send you a meeting request.

May 19, 2010 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Leah: I'm now more convinced than ever that Jackass has some deeper meaning that none of us have detected. Right?

Scarlet: Now, THAT'S a metaphor!

Daisy: It is for that very reason I would insist on dragging you in to see this exhibit. All the pretense would be exposed by your childish ways.

Kykn: As it turns out, you are a performance artist. So you know, it doesn't pay very well.

May 19, 2010 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

this is why the taliban hates us, sugar! *snickering* i think, no, i know, i'd start laughing as soon as i had to squeezemydoubleD's between the gatekeepers! xoxoxoxo

May 19, 2010 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Impossible to say how one would feel without experiencing it. On the whole I prefer not to participate in public art,theatre etc- except as audience or performer.

May 19, 2010 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Sorry but if you sign up to do an exhibit where you make people walk in between two naked people and have to brush up against them-- well aren't you just asking to be groped? I'm just sayin'.

May 19, 2010 at 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:sigh: I wish I lived in a place where I could walk in between/grope naked people in the name of art.

May 19, 2010 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Jason Quinones said...

i call bullshit on this entire exhibit.

May 19, 2010 at 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is Princess Leigh doing with her buns out. Hang on, that sounds wrong.

May 19, 2010 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Reading these interesting comments, I think laughter is an honest response to performance art! Totally acceptable, not even childish really. Once at college I attended a performance art piece where a girl sat squshing marshmallows while people sat and watched. Finally I just got up, took a marshmallow, ate it, and left. Actually I'm not sure people were down with that, but I think they were missing the point...

May 19, 2010 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Savannah: Yes, but would you face the man or the woman when squeezing through? That's the choice everyone has to make.

Pat: My nightmare at any performance is when the house lights go up and the audience is expected to participate. I hate it. I paid to be entertained by the people on stage, not the ones in the audience.

FGIS: They had expected problems but not the volume they're getting. And, yeah, what'd they expect?!

Rohan: Are there no strip clubs where you are? It's not that far removed from what I saw...

Jason: I thought you might.

Dolce: Who's looking at her buns, dear?

Leah: Do you know what flashed in my mind? I was going to get in line to sit with her in the atrium and once there, take all my clothes off. They'd have carted my ass out of MoMA but I would have gone screaming that it was my masterpiece!

May 19, 2010 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

i'm part puerto rican, sugar! it would an experience no matter which way i faced! ;~D xoxoxoxo

May 19, 2010 at 6:18 PM  
Anonymous RubyTwoShoes said...

I love that you call (quite possibly) meaningless performance art "crap-ola" and then say you love it!!
This is the kind of art I find to be a refined form of pure wankery! esp sitting in front of a wind blower till you pass out - artist genius or what? I'm going with 'or what'...but what would I know, I'm a lowly working class gal that didn't turn up to art class cuz I was too busy standing naked in the playground making people walk past me...!

May 19, 2010 at 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, UB. No legal ones here. Besides, it isn't really the same, is it? You'd never catch me renting a porno flick, but buying the Criterion edition of Contempt just to watch Brigitte Bardot in the nude, on the other hand...

I'm a high-brow lech - it has society's seal of approval.

May 20, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

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