Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review Addendum: Marina Abramovic @ MoMA

That Abramovic show must have really done something to me. I woke up this morning thinking about it, instead of my usual thoughts about food and going back to sleep.

I have had two more thoughts in the night.

Uno: Too many documents, displayed too wrongly. There is not only a whole room filled with Abramovic-related documents and exhibition ephemera, but a case filled with documents pertaining to her parents. The latter was quite smartly placed near The Hero, which does, in fact, take her parents' careers in the Yugoslav(ian?) military as its subject matter. But, in a show that is so much about self- and body-abnegation, there is something a bit pornographic-fetishistic of the artist's biography and physical artifact that seems all together too MoMA for my tastes. I understand that MoMA is the house that Pablo built, and that Alfred Barr (bless every bit of his heart) may have created an institution specifically designed to perpetuate the myth of the heroic artist (let's toss that one, along with the whole divine inspiration and "it can mean whatever you want" malarkey), but it's just plain off-key for a show about Abramovic, who seems so focused not only on self-denial, but also collaboration.

Dos: Talking about Abramovic's work solely in terms of body damage-stress-denial misses one of the really amazing things I noticed yesterday. The works measure themselves in the smallest and most silent of increments. For every gun pointed at the throat and burning-star almost asphyxiation, there are an infinity of micro-motions. I was absolutely floored watching the arms of the performer in Luminosity slowly weary and descend from the upper position of Vitruvian man to the lower. It was like seeing St. Andrew's martyrdom take an intermission. And the slight ticking back and forth of the performer's eyes as she tried to hold them up was one of the most profound envisionings of futility I can think of.

Same with the performances of Relation in Time and Point of Contact. Slow incremental movements and microscopic alterations of distance. Like breathing or growing or each and every measurement of the body.

Pretty great stuff.

By the way, this is a really amazing site for Abramovic's work. Kudos to those who designed it.

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