Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pet Tricks at MOMA

Some of us, most of us are such  eager and willing short-order-cooks of significance  and meaning we can hardly stop. We, or some of us have misplaced necessary skepticism that makes the grown-ups grown-ups. Here is a melancholic example of that innocent rush toward seeing meaning and significance in places where plainly there is none. Mark Matlock ,apparently a Christian minister writes about his “profound experience”:
“Last year my family had a rather profound experience at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Performance artist Marina Abramovic began each morning sitting across a table, staring at any patron of the museum who wanted to sit in the chair across from her. The piece was called “The Artist Is Present”. She repeated this activity everyday MOMA was open for three months.
 To the casual observer it looked quite unusual. Who is this woman? All she is doing is sitting there, all day, staring. Is this art or a practical joke?
 But as people began gathering around, watching, themselves engaged, it was apparent to the thoughtful person that something special was happening. The Artist Was Present.”
 So- any thoughtful person would realize it was special; sitting motionless and numb was “special”, or sitting at MOMA  made it so? Would any pointless demonstration, like kneeling all day or strumming stringless guitar each day for three month would also be found by thoughtful person to be special? Probably, I fear.
In next paragraph our good minister is savoring the simplicity of “the artist” gift, namely her presence. She is not represented by any art-work or action, just the numb sitting, strong bladder retention and remarkable talent for enduring blankness.
“ But out in MOMA’s atrium, Marina Abramovic WAS present. She had no paintings, no objects to show, nothing to say, nothing to give, except for her presence. And she was present all day. She never took a break to go to the bathroom or to eat lunch. She just sat, willing to be present with anyone who wished to sit across from her, and they could stay as long as they liked.”
We all know our cultural heritage and stand in awe in front of its greatness. How does the three months of motionless sitting going to be a contribution to that heritage? And yet, the minister and no doubt his family,all thoughtful people came away with “profound experience”.

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