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Marina Abramovic

September 2, 2012

Marina Abramovic is pretty remarkable. Certainly, her recent film The Artist is Present, documenting the MOMA retrospective of her work that took place last year, reveals an artist who is self centred and childlike, yet totally comfortable with herself and what she does. More info here I totally recommend a watch, it’s fascinating. She got me thinking about silence because of her new work in that show, also entitled The Artist is Present. Abramovic’s early work was concerned with her own body, performance art at its most visceral, painful and involved. In the film she admits that age (she’s now 65, although looks at least 10 years younger) has made her less radical, although having seen the film, I’m not sure that’s true. It’s made her more reflective and less determined to shock, but no less radical in her performance. Back to silence…it plays a big part in a lot of her work but The Artist is Present is perhaps the most focussed on silence as a state of being. For the three month run of the show, every day, for all the hours that MOMA was open, Abramovic sat in a chair, in the gallery, and invited the audience to sit opposite her, for as long as they wanted. Both artist and visitor were silent. The effect of this, on both parties, was unexpectedly profound. There were lots of tears and some incredible moments of joy, sadness, enlightenment, recognition and everything inbetween. Silence between two people in this intense way, is so rare. What Abramovic demonstrates in this work, is that silence leads to an almost unknowable connection when practiced between people who are otherwise unacquainted. The amazing thing about the work is that people were literally running into the gallery, as soon as it opened, to get to the front of the queue for the chance to sit in silence in front of someone they didn’t know. The experience seems to have taken on an almost mythical status. To talk to Abramovic would have killed the myth, silence was everything.  Except it wasn’t quite silent. Around the work, the gallery went on as before, the gentle buzz of visitors, movement, laughter, conversation. The silence was totally created by the work, in a kind of vacuum. Silence is possible then, in our busy world. It just needs to be created. We, as teachers and museum professionals, have an important role to play in the creation of silence. Abramovic’s work made it ok to be silent, in amongst the hubbub of normal life, we must also make it so for those who look to us for guidance and direction. Silence doesn’t have to be silent; really, it’s about a state of mind.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alex Drago permalink
    September 3, 2012 7:59 am

    There’s an interesting relationship between presence and absence within art, whether 2d, 3d or performance. So much of what makes an image work is based on spatial relationships, if it’s 2d it’s the composition of the image itself, the use of thirds makes the image balance, while colours and detail, help create the narrative. Similarly with 3d, which is arguably more difficult to achieve, the relationships are defined by how the piece relates to the space in which it’s located. And of course, with performance, it is an even more complex situation. Arguabaly, Abramovic has created a situation where she has taken an absence and made it a presence, transforming it from intangible into tangible, which is what makes it art.

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