Saw this recently. Artist Marian Abramovic has a unique performance – The Artist is Present. This has also been made into a documentary. There are two chairs and a table in between. This is the setting and the artist (Marina) is seated on one chair. Audience members come and occupt the empty chair, and once the artist gets a sense that someone is sitting down, she spends a minute with them. In silence, gazing at them. Marina never leaves the chair. She has her hands on her lap. Once the audience leaves, she gazes down towards her hand and then only lifts her gaze, and sometimes opens her closed eyes when she feels the new stranger is in front of her. Each time it is deemed a new performance. This present show happened in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
As I was looking at her videos, I came across a moment – when things changed. My teacher -Vijay Padaki always calls it the truth of the moment. When there is an influence of something that can shatter, or change the way we are on stage. When you have to be truthful to your performance in the moment, even if things change. I had a glimpse of a beautiful moment like that in another video for the same performance. On another day, Marina began in the same set up – with a chair opposite to her waiting to be occupied, her gaze downward. Unknown to her, a stranger walked by and sat down. This was Ulay, a partner she had parted ways with in the 70s. This was when she had seen him last. one of the “strangers” she met was an old frind of hers Ulay, another performer. The last she had seen of him was when they parted ways in the 70s.
They had felt that their relationship had run its course and so, they ended it by walking towards each other from the two different ends of the Great Wall of China and briefly meeting when they did on the wall and passing each other by.
Ulay comes and sits in front of her. The moment is played in front of the audience.
Here is the video of that performance