Presence dear

photo via

Three 11 or 12 year old boys were standing right behind me, so I eavesdropped on their conversation.   I was sitting crosslegged on the floor about fifteen feet away from the center of the floodlit indoor square where, for every moment the MOMA has been open for the past 41 days, Marina Abramovic has been sitting  in a chair opposite whoever would like to sit across from her for however long they can stand to be there.  The kids were talking to a boy they knew who was sitting crosslegged on the floor next to me.  They were not impressed with the art, or were pretending not to be impressed.

“It’s a little over-glorified by that thing on the wall,” one of them said, (meaning the description of the piece.)

“Do you understand the concept of this?” the boy sitting next to me asked the one who’d said the art was over-glorified.  I started to revise my automatic assumption that these kids weren’t New Yorkers.

“It’s a sculpture,” the first boy said.

“No, that lady blinked!”

“No,” (exasperated sigh), “It’s a sculpture made out of the two ladies. That one is always there,” — here he pointed to Abramovic, in her red dress — “and the other one changes all the time.”

We all went back to sitting in silence, watching the sculpture made out of the two ladies.  The one who changes all the time suddenly folded her hands and bowed her head deeply, preparing to get up to leave, and Abramovic silently acknowledged her gesture with an almost imperceptible nod.  The quality of passionate attention that passed between the two women in this moment was so intense that it was almost impossible to watch: a flaming sunset of a moment.  I felt moved against my will, like when you find automatic tears running down your face during the childbirth scene in some schlocky movie.

This moment was undeniable and real, or it was completely in my imagination.

The kids, nonplussed, moved on.  Probably they were disappointed that the Tim Burton exhibit had exceeded capacity and was off-limits.

6 comments to Presence dear

  • Sarah C.

    Most of the time I think performance art is kind of ridiculous but after reading the profile of Abramovic in The New Yorker I went to see the show. She just fascinates me and I think her presence is genuinely compelling.

    I thought the throngs of people waiting on line for a chance to stare her down was a little bit much but there’s something really cool about the methods she uses to provoke emotional responses from her audience. I kind of loved the whole show as it turns out. Luckily I was there before the reenactors were in the news for being groped and so was able to appreciate what they were doing instead of keeping an eye peeled for pervs. How about that woman (I mean, I’m pretty sure she was a woman) on the bike seat?

    Anyway. I like Marina Abramovic but I don’t really understand why.

  • I was talking to someone who surprised me by even knowing who Marina Abramovic was, let alone really liking her, and we both came to the conclusion that we just really like her and we don’t exactly know why.

  • I can’t imagine doing what she does–I have a hard enough time maintaining eye contact with people I know; let alone strangers.

  • Lea K.

    I thought you were supposed to be smart. “A group of three 11 or 12 year old boys were standing right behind me…” is not correct. It should be “A group of three 11 or 12 year old boys WAS standing right behind me.” The word “group” is singular. Pretty basic, Emily.

  • emily

    @ Lea K. Fixed! Thanks for your copyediting help. FYI, though, the generally accepted etiquette of blog spelling and grammar correction is that you send an email rather than leave a pedantic, jerky comment. Something to keep in mind for the future!

  • Uncle Mack

    You can eliminate “the group” which adds nothing and go with the rest. That sounds (reads) better anyway.

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