The Artist Is Present – Marina Abramovic
Marina Abramović (Serbian Cyrillic: Марина Абрамовић, Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [maˌrǐːna abˈrǎːmoʋit͡ɕ]; born November 30, 1946) is a Serbian performance artist based in New York. Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Active for over three decades, Abramović has been described as the “grandmother of performance art.” She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body.”
From March 14 to May 31, 2010, the Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective and performance recreation of Abramović’s work, the biggest exhibition of performance art in MoMA’s history. During the run of the exhibition, Abramović performed The Artist Is Present, a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum’s atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. Ulay made a surprise appearance at the opening night of the show.
Abramovic sat in a rectangle drawn with tape in the floor of the second floor atrium of the MoMA; theater lights shone on
her sitting in a chair and a chair opposite her. Visitors waiting in line were invited to sit individually across from the artist while she maintained eye contact with them. Visitors began crowding the atrium within days of the show opening, some gathering before the exhibit opened each morning to rush for a more preferable place in the line to sit with Abramovic. Most visitors sat with the artist for five minutes or less and the line attracted no attention from museum security except for the last day of the exhibition when a visitor vomited in line and another began to disrobe. Tensions among visitors in line could have arisen from an understanding that for every minute each person in line spent with Abramovic, there would be that many fewer minutes in the day for those further back in line to spend with the artist. Due to the strenuous nature of sitting for hours at a time, art-enthusiasts have speculated as to whether Abramovic wore an adult diaper to eliminate the need to move to urinate. Others have highlighted the movements she made in between sitters as a focus of analysis, as the only variations in the artist between sitters were when she would cry if a sitter cried and her moment of physical contact with Ulay, one of the earliest visitors to the exhibition. Abramovic sat across from 1,545 sitters, including James Franco, Lou Reed and Bjork; sitters were asked not to touch or speak to the artist. By the end of the exhibit, hundreds of visitors were lining up outside the museum overnight to secure a spot in line the next morning. Abramovic concluded the performance by slipping from the chair where she was seated and rising to a cheering crowd more than ten people deep.
A support group for the “sitters,” “Sitting with Marina,” was established on Facebook, as was the blog “Marina Abramović made me cry.” The Italian photographer Marco Anelli took portraits of every person who sat opposite Abramović, which were published on Flickr, compiled in a book and featured in an exhibition at the Danziger Gallery in New York.
Abramović said the show changed her life “completely – every possible element, every physical emotion,” and that Lady Gaga saw it helped boost her popularity: “So the kids from 12 and 14 years old to about 18, the public who normally don’t go to the museum, who don’t give a shit about performance art or don’t even know what it is, started coming because of Lady Gaga. And they saw the show and then they started coming back. And that’s how I get a whole new audience.” In September 2011, a video game version of Abramović’s performance was released by Pippin Barr.