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Marina Abramovich: Art and Love

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“The artist is present”, a documentary about the exceptional modern artist Marina Abramovich, is a transforming introspection into the life of the now 67-year old Yugoslavian artist whose daring art works have redefined art for good.

Marina Abramovich puts on stage everything that is considered unthinkable. Her works are so provocative, so radically different from everything else that we perceive as “art”, that people have continuously questioned whether her work is to be called art at all.

Pablo Picasso said that “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” But this is not the art Marina is creating for what she does is taking the dust of life and magnifying it, thus making it “worth our attention”.

Eye contact, for instance, is something we oversee in our busy daily lives. Marina takes it and enlarges it, and makes herself available to be seen, invites her public to be seen by her. The result is rediscovering a tool for human connection which is so powerful, so human and so basic, yet profoundly forgotten.

tumblr_m2cizu1SS41qf8fa5o1_1280 In her “Project 0” Marina creates a space for the eruption of our quiet emotions into their deeper, socially unacceptable counterparts. The passive aggression that inhibits our day-to-day communication is given the floor to present itself in its might, even if it is for the price of the artist’s life. The results are alarming, but “Art should be disturbing”- Abramovich asserts.

What is so incredible about Marina Abramovich is she deliberately presents herself as a co-creator of her work. She involves the public in her pieces, cutting off the gap between artist and observer. The individuals making up the crowd are no more mere spectators, but rather participants whose involvement is everything to the piece and to the artist. Allowing the public to fully integrate itself in her work, Marina creates art pieces that are unforgettable. Her art pieces are social experiments which offer insight and opportunities for dialogue and reflection long after they have been performed.

23527_marina_abramovic_filteredThe work of Marina Abramovich inspires me with its gigantic fearlessness. The artist dares to show and put herself in situations of absolute vulnerability as perceived through the lenses of our society. Naked, tortured, starving, she challenges our notions for beauty, she destroys our shared preconceptions as to what can be shown on stage. She triggers strong emotional response while not hiding her own vulnerabilities. And with that she threatens the way we imagine an artist to be like- for the creator is not someone who acts on behalf of a whim, sitting comfortably in front of a fire place, but, rather, quite literally taking on the role of Jesus sprung on a cross in front of the eyes of everyone.

A disturbing for me element of the movie was the revelation of facts about Marina’s personal life. What was difficult for me in particular was learning about her love life and her thirty-year long relationship with German artist Uwe Laysiepen (Ulai) which termination left Marina ever so motivated and ever so lonely.

Marina’s story of passionate romance and collaboration with Ulai reinforces the common assumption that powerful, talented women are bound to remain alone because they challenge the hetero-normative distribution of balance of powers within relationships. The documentary shows the insecurities of Ulai who never succeeded to reach the scale of Marina’s artistic success and genius. His break up with Marina was caused by his impregnating his translator whom he later married.

The turn-out of his relationship with Marina make me question whether powerful women are, indeed, destined to be alone for they always seem to be “too much” for their respective partners. Are there men out there who can take it all and live with us, women who burn in passion, and choose to live life to its fullest intensity? Is it men’s privilege to be challenged and transformed by women like Marina Abramovich, yet weakness to choose the path of least resistance when it comes to family life?

My personal take from the movie which introduced me to Abramovich’s work in depth is the reassurance that art doesn’t have to be superficial. That life and art are not opposites. And that real, present-time emotions are not just the outcome of art, but are part of its making- all the way from the beginning to the end. 


Affairs to remember

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Maggie NazerChurch, early on a Thanksgiving morning. I close my eyes to pray but the picture that flashes before my eyes is His being on top of me, kissing me. I’m not talking about Jesus, of course, and it’s not my imagination. “If love is a sin, I’m a sinner,” I comfort myself (with the lines of a song I had never heard) proudly as I whisper, “Amen.” I am thankful to remember last night precisely: our voices, the silence, the tension between our bodies, reading a book in bed together. No hangover, no doubt that it happened, no regret whatsoever.

Hooking up is so big in college that people have come so far as to call it a “culture.” Students are so busy, stressed and dedicated to succeed in the big world that hook-ups come in handy, within the strict time-frame of Saturday nights and with the helpful assistance of lots and lots of alcohol. Yet, what does it do for us? What are the needs we try to satisfy as we dress up, go partying, get drunk and take someone to bed? Is it about intimacy, or being with someone, or even simply receiving pleasure? And do we ever get what we want?

“Waking up on a Sunday morning is heavy-duty,” my friend tells me as we sit to have brunch together later that day. Coming to terms with last night’s outcomes must be, indeed, hard to swallow (no matter of our degree of mastery). With the ecstasy of being young, drunk and alive after yet another week of Middlebury academics, comes the natural need to perform in yet another discipline – sex. Yet, how do we prove we are the high-achievers we know ourselves to be?

We drink. We drink to relax ourselves, to get ourselves excited and excused… Drunkenness is the socially accepted apology for the lack of erection, for the abandonment of restrictions and the temporary display of amnesia when you meet your late-night companion(s) in the dining hall the following morning. Drinking is the confidence booster we need to silence our fear that we aren’t good enough, or interesting enough, or sexy enough, so that we go on stealing sex from each other uninterrupted by reality. We steal what we can steal, afraid we won’t be given anything otherwise.  It’s all good until you realize you can do better than that.

The sober seduction is the ultimate turn-on. There is power in vulnerability and beauty in the creation of proximity, be it even for a night. The more present I am, the more aroused. Only presence in the given moment provides passion with existence, because it exists solely here and now, and only then forever. Reduced to its mechanics, sex offers no pleasure. Eroticism is conceived by the consent and fullest participation of everyone involved in the sexual act. In the exchange of value we call “sex,” why do we rob each other of any meaning?

As I looked at the glowing stars stuck on the ceiling of my college dorm, lying sleepless in his arms, I asked myself why the need to forget. “Life is short”- everyone around me claims as a justification of everything we do in attempt to bring ourselves what we want, which most often results in the exact opposite of it. Yet if life is short why not live it to remember it? Should the affairs we remember be only the academic ones and do we have anything to feel good about once we put our clothes back on?

We all know that sex is no more a mere instrument to reproduction. But while we are among the luckiest people ever lived on the Earth to be able to create togetherness through sex without too much fear of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (if we are smart about it, of course!), we run away from truly being with each other afraid of its implications… As we confront our guilty consciousness after another naughty Saturday has passed, we have to accept that the most obvious consequences of our wasted hook-ups are the missed opportunities… If not for “true love”, than at least for human connection and warmth. And as we dare to open up and be with each other unmasked, naked and sober, we might find that someone would want to stay around not only for the night, but may be even after…

The article was first published in my very own “Love and sexuality” column in “The Middlebury Campus” newspaper- Vol. 112, NO. 11 from December 5, 2013; www.middleburycampus.com