RSS
Marina Abramovic's 'profoundly unsettling' art
Nude models. Weeping, stripping, and vomiting spectators. What did the legendary performance artist's residency at MoMA teach us?
 
Marina Abramovic in "The Artist is Present."
Marina Abramovic in "The Artist is Present."
Getty

Marina Abramovic, the grand dame of performance art, has finished her 12-week-long residency at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Though the show featured several live nude models "re-performing" some of Abramovic's classic pieces, its most buzzworthy aspect was a 736-hour-and-30 minute "static piece" where Abramovic herself sat motionless on a chair day after day, staring placidly into the (frequently weeping) eyes of whoever sat in front of her, prompting hopeful participants to line up for hours. Was it all worth it? (Watch one museum patron take on Abramovic)

This tour-de-force reinvigorated "art": 

Abramovic's retrospective "thrillingly turned the clock back" to a time when "the stirring of bourgeois complacency" was the sole purpose of modern art, says Peter Aspden in the Financial Times. And where better to do it than "the global center of art-as-commodity," New York? These works are "masterpieces of contemporary art," and it was both "extraordinary" and "profoundly unsettling" to witness them in the flesh.

"Art makes its presence felt"

Abramovic herself was the only real highlight: Abramovic's own performance was extraordinary, says Holland Cotter at The New York Times, but the rest of the show "fell flat." Even though the "nudity caused a buzz," the restaging of her '70s and '80s performances by naked models lacked "unpredictability and ephemerality" — which left them as "misrepresented history and bad theater."
"700-hour silent opera reaches finale at MoMA"

Actually, the real shame was the misbehaving audience: The exhibit erased the line between spectator and performer, says Adrian Chen in Gawker, in the worst sense: Certain attendees felt inspired to vomit, strip themselves naked, and (allegedly) grope the naked performers. If nothing else, Abramovic taught us  that when spectators are "given the chance, they'll act like petulant 2-year-olds fed up with waiting for their chicken fingers at TGI Friday's." 
"Vomit! Nudity! Litter! Marina Abramovic's marathon performance ends in chaos"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week