A few years ago I had written of Marina Abramovic’s exhibit at the MoMA: The Artist is Present. Knowing very little of Abramovic’s work, I sat, transfixed, watching her physically sit across from strangers to share a moment of silence. Abramovic sat each day for three months as museum visitors rotated into the empty seat opposite her. Strangely obsessed, I watched for an entire afternoon.
As I said then and will say now, I know very little about Abramovic or art and even less about performance art. But I can say with absolute certainty, that I have never had a work of art move me as this did.
Today, a friend brought this work back to my attention with a video of Abramovic’s experience at MoMa. It came with an accompanying story. Abramovic and the artist Ulay started an intense love story in the 70’s. When they felt that their relationship had run its course, they each walked the Great Wall of China from opposite ends, met in the middle, and parted for good.
This video features The Artist is Present exhibit. The first minute shows how she sat with various strangers. Then Ulay arrives without her knowing.
(I have read some controversy as to whether or not this was staged, whether they had met weeks prior or even that morning. To me, it doesn’t matter. This is story. This is what we can reveal in a moment between two people. This is what can happen.)