Thoughts on The Artist is Present
Great Thoughts. (#abramovic, @rwetzler)
Site-specific works are impermanent, installed in particular locations for limited duration, their impermanence providing the measure of their circumstantiality. […] In this, the site-specific work becomes an emblem of transience, the ephemerality of all phenomena; it is the memento mori of the twentieth century. Because of its impermanence, moreover, the work is frequently preserved only in photographs. This fact is crucial, for it suggests the allegorical potential of photography. […] As an allegorical art, then, photography would represent our desire to fix the transitory, the ephemeral, in a stable and stabilizing image.
Craig Owens, The Allegorical Impuse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism (Part I)
All those images of Abramović make me think that she is as much an artist who uses performance to create images, as she is a performance artist. Some of those documentary photographs of her are so iconic (with all the religious resonances of that word […] that the fact of the performance can seem almost secondary. I’m thinking here about a piece such as Rest Energy (1980), in which she and Ulay hold a bow and arrow in tension, the arrow pointing at Abramović’s chest. It’s less of a record of a performance than a striking and carefully constructed image, one both instantaneously grasped (you don’t need to study it for more than a second to work out what’s going on) and laden with symbolism.