The Photographer Is Also Present

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I don’t think that there’s any question that the art world event of the moment is the exhibition, “Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present” at The Museum of Modern Art. A retrospective of work by one of the pioneers of peformance art, the centerpiece of the show is Ms. Abramovic herself, who sits silently at a table in the museum’s atrium, facing an empty chair. She’s scheduled to sit there all day, every day, for the run of her show. The museum estimates that she will sit for 716 hours and 30 minutes. Visitors to the show are welcome to sit opposite her for as long as they want and while most sit for about 15 minutes I gather some people, mindless of the lines behind them, have sat it out with Ms. Abramovic for the entire day.

Unremarked on is that a photographer working for MoMA has been there to record every interaction, taking a picture of each participant and noting the time they spent in the chair. The photographer, Marco Anelli, has posted all these pictures to flickr and there’s a slide show on MoMA’s own website – both worth looking at. It’s clearly a feat of endurance in it’s own right and it has the fascination of putting a face to the world of art lovers as well as capturing something of what the experience means to them. It’s a nice addition to the school of discrete observation pioneered by Walker Evans and Harry Callahan and once you get going clicking through the different faces, you'll find it quite addictive.

The artist, Marina Abramovic. Day 16. 600 minutes.

13 minutes.

386 minutes.

75 minutes.

10 minutes.


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