MoMA recently opened a major retrospective chronicling the work of performance artist Marina Abramovic, in which the legendary artist tackles the subject of performance itself. Her work and thoughts on the body as a medium–rather than the two-dimensions of canvas and paint–leads to considerations of what we consider art (permanent or ephemeral? material or abstract?). Reminds me of the work of Ana Mendieta; I’m a big fan of the Cuban-born, Iowa-raised, feminist-driven and performance-based artist who rose to prominence in the 70’s.
Abramovic, in these online videos to accompany the MoMA exhibition, discusses the challenges of standing for hours on end as performance, or what it means physiologically to eat gold, as she does in some of her most famous work.
Interesting to those of us who cross borders between high and low art (I’m torn most days between rereading Flaubert and watching American Idol), is this conversation between Abramovic and James Franco. In the beginning of the clip, the artist herself questions why she would want to meet a Hollywood actor. It’s clear that in her view, performance art–lasting, thoughtful, concerned less with capitalism than the unspeakable–has very little to do with the machinations of Hollywood entertainment.
Interesting to listen to the artist and the actor discuss differences such as imitating a character, as actors must do, compared to experiencing real pain–knives and blood, eating an onion, sitting and staring for hours (literally: Abramovic will sit for seven and a half hours each day for three months in performance at MoMA’s library)–as performance artists must do. Calls into question the idea of intent: entertainment as passing pleasure; performance art as something more nuanced, more challenging, less about satiation than restlessness, hunger, and desire. I like this analogy: art makes us hunger; entertainment satiates the shallow mind.