Some have tackled the dress of Marina Abramović because they couldn’t wrap their heads around the work. I am more than a little familiar with lets-discuss-how-she-looks-not-what-she-makes. It is still hard for me to see this in very contemporary minds. However in this case, costume is a part of a performer’s toolbelt.
Much in her performances is relatable: I’ve been slapped, I know how that feels. Definitely wanted to slap back, though I never did - so yeah, the repeated blow after senseless blow action in the video was strangely and savagely satisfying.
She reminds us that however casual we are about our bodies and nudity, we still think about the specifics. We still think about how great or how bad a pair of tits are (and did she have hers transformed?). It was all over this exhibition and it was all over the Facebook conversations. Yes indeed I did read “She has a great pair of tits.”
As to the stare-down, my own way to treat a stare was to give it back. Many have not liked that. They don’t like getting caught or maybe just being reminded of manners. It is the return stare which brings the discomfort, the recognition and this sense of loss of power.
What I also enjoyed about the artist being so present was that she made everyone stop. Museum going can be like cattle herding. Some of the art world only paused in disdain, but I saw many others stop in old fashioned, patient curiosity. We like to think that art is “an experience” but for many it is a drive-by event. Not with this. And I say all this not being a great fan of most performance art, though like any 70s renegade, I participated in it (with Cavellini and Monty Cantsin). Performance can be a drone and a nifty title for those at a loss of doing any one particular thing well. But she condensed it all in this MOMA show.