Friday 23 April 2010

The "ARTIST" is present.

Marina Abramovic is one of the persons who I respect very much. My first encountering of her work was a house called “Yumeno-ie”. It made a great impact on my life. Although I had never seen her performances, which are almost synonymous with her, I thought I would love her whatever she made and will make in the future. The experience let me find that the person is much more important than his/her works and defined a part of my attitude.

A wall in the "Yumeno-ie"

A part of the "Yumeno-ie"

I went to see her live performance at MoMA in NYC last week, finally. She was in a space squared off by white tapes on the floor and enlightened by white lights on each corner. The surface of the floor was smooth and shining like marbles.

On the first day of my stay (which was only for three days), I went out in the morning wearing my favorite shirt to cheer up myself and arrived at the museum one hour before the opening. But there was a line for tickets already. “There’s nothing worse than not being able to see Marina today”, I thought. I decided to line up. “Where is Marina Abramovic?” I asked many times. I was really impatient. On the opening, I slipped through the crowd and made a beeline for her on the second floor.

Vivid red under white light jumped into my eyes. Marina! I realized her with the redness before realizing that she was in a beautiful red dress. There was a table with two chairs facing each other on the center of the space. Marina was on one side. An elderly lady was on the other side.

I thought we visitors must be allowed to sit in front of her! There was a line for that outside the white lines. I looked at her front face from the line. She was breathtakingly beautiful. She looked totally different from any other people being there. It had never occurred to me that such a simple word as “beautiful” occupied me when I saw a person. My soul was quaking.

Marina and the lady seemed not talking nor laughing. I was confident that there was no rule about how long and how we see her.

Once I had a similar (but of course, totally different) experience in a very small southern island in Japan. On a night with full moon (which was only a lucky coincident), I tried to sit on the rough road face to face with persons who I respect very much (one at a time), within a distance in which we could barely see each other’s face in the darkness of the midnight, where any artificial lights did not exist. The distance between us was, at the longest, about 30 cm. I tried to show them my true self, if any. I decided to make a smile when I could do that and not to run away however they reacted to me. I was a kind of persons who get extremely nervous in front of people, especially in front of persons who I like. It was a trial for me. As a result, those people run away from me within 3 sec and the trial was over.

Marina never left the table, and never had meals or drinks, until the museum closed. What I could see was subtle changes of her facial muscles. Very quiet time had passed. When the person across the table showed a move to leave, Marina closed her eyes. Until the next person came from the outside of the white line, she kept bending down her face. When both persons became ready, she raised her face and then opened her eyes as if she exposed herself to a new world….

On the outside of the white line, a variety of people were making noise. Some were waiting their own turns like me, and others were passing through. Some made a phone call, and others took photos with a flare of flashlight. Some made a look of dubiousness, and others a very serious look. However, it was very silent inside the line, as if Marina’s purified spirit was extended over the space. It reminded me of a temple named “Eihei-ji” in Japan where the totally different appearance of the monks when mingled with noisy tourists like me was very impressive. I found a lot of lines drawn on the wall behind Marina.

Marina has been sitting since March 14, until May 31.

On the center of the space inside,
I saw a person sitting with some intentions.
A person sitting provocatively.
A person sitting like confronting God.
Some people stayed on the chair over an hour.
I came to be uncertain.
Am I only to adore her?
What did I like to do?
What am I?
I didn’t come here to possess her.
This is her trial. That should be why she looks so beautiful.

(But it was very nice to see a person who was on a security role there sitting in his plain clothes on the other day. He must have been off on the day, I thought. He came back with bright red cheeks.)

Finally my turn has come. It was almost after 5 hours from the opening.

I started to walk.

I had the seat.
Marina raised her face.
Her eyes were opened.

She had wondering eyes, I thought.
In some way she looked vacant, and also very silent as a doll. But something was different from a doll. The color of the eyes captured me. “Beautiful”, my consciousness said. On that moment, I felt tears welling up and struggled to hold them. Marina didn’t alter her facial expressions. She was being there just quietly with the eyes, not showing any signs of sympathy, relief, anger or sadness.

“It is not the time to cry”, I thought. I lowered my eyes to calm down. I saw her eyes again. I found extreme silence in her mind. This time I felt my mind also became silent for a moment. I felt I've had enough and left the table. The duration must be within 5min.

The title of this performance is “ THE ARTIST IS PRESENT”. She was never showing sympathy, but presenting her innermost being. “ARTIST” might be to have a beautiful soul. Beauty must be an acquired state by training oneself, and overcoming it again and again, different from being innocent. I witnessed the soul of a person who has lived not by the motivation of just creating beautiful things or interesting and new things, but by the passion of creating one’s own life. I’ll never forget the silence in the person who keeps changing.

Marina Abramovic is here.

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