The mind boggles at extreme acts of creativity. I work in a contemporary art museum, and, let me tell you, I have seen some things. I've viewed works of video art which range from the astounding to the curiously inane; I've seen pieces of art that move my soul, and, conversely, a set of wooden frames that is annoying supposed to be a “self-portrait. I've witnessed aerial acrobatics and acts of debauchery in the midst of parties held in the gallery space. I consider the area itself a living, breathing work of art where anything can – and does – happen.
I have just spent a good deal of time captivated by the research I have done for this article. I want to tell you about the performance artist Marina Abramović. Art is subjective and many naysayers would argue against her work, but no one can deny that it is certainly intriguing. She once sat still for six hours in front of a table of 72 objects. Audience members were welcome to approach and use these objects in any way they saw fit. (Avid viewers of the excellent television show “House” will find this familiar.) Objects included a rose, honey, a feather, a scalpel. A gun with a bullet. She survived – but her life was at one point in very real danger. Not once did she move until the end.
Many may be familiar with a more simplistic piece of performance art: she and a man stood nude on either side of a doorway, forcing people to squeeze by them to enter an art gallery. Observations were made as to whether the entrants faced the naked man or the naked woman as they passed.
In 2010 the Museum of Modern Art hosted a retrospective of Marina Abramović's work, during which Abramović herself performed a piece entitled “The Artist is Present,” in which she sat static and silent at a table for 736 hours and thirty minutes, while spectators were welcome to sit across from her. (I have found no word on the sleep or food or restroom situation.)
The preparation for this retrospective is the topic of the aptly titled documentary “The Artist is Present,” which screens tomorrow (Tuesday, May 29) at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. The film is presented with the collaboration of 21c Museum Hotel and the Flyover Film Festival, which officially kicks off on June 7 (stay tuned for details).
“The Artist is Present” plays at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $12. There will be a Q&A immediately following the film with Abramović herself. The Kentucky Center for the Arts is located at 501 W. Main Street.
Image: Kentucky Center for the Arts website
(Note: the trailer contains artistic nudity.)