Man Bartlett

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Waiting in Marina's Line, aka #wsma

If you haven’t read my first post on the Marina Abramovic show, please do so before you continue reading! Seriously. I’m about to rant and I want you to know what my first impressions were. They were good!

So I set out from Flux Factory today shortly after MoMA opened (around 10:30am), knowing that there may already be a sizable line to participate in the Marina Abramović performance “The Artist Is Present.” The participation is sitting across from her. You probably know all this already, but in case you don’t, the performance, which is part of a retrospective of the artist’s work, is a big deal in New York right now. There were a ton of people there. Speaking of which, the line. When I first saw it I made a quick judgment to let go and not even try. I ran into an artist I know (who’s working on this) and we chatted a bit before I started to wander. But I only got a few steps before I just sat down and started watching. After a few minutes I decided I might as well be sitting in line. Then after a few more minutes I decided to start tweeting my observations. Those tweets are currently here and will be eventually cleaned up and archived here.

The range of emotions was wide. To make a long story short, I did not sit with Marina today. I ended my coverage not with a bang but a whimper, and wandered around the museum intending to leave. But I had told the people around me to hold my place, and after roaming I checked in and it looked like I might actually get the chance to sit. However the person in front of me made it clear right before he walked in to the square that he had no intention of leaving the seat before the museum closed. I stayed anyway. But true to his word, the museum closed, and after being ushered away he came rushing over to me saying, “Dude, that was so amazing, you have to come back.” That irked me a little bit, to be honest. But that was also part of the device of the piece. There is a built in “empowerment” that each sitter has. They can sit for as long or as little as they like and enter the trance. And if they’re special, they can jump to the front of the line. But regardless it’s not actually empowerment at all, it’s manipulation. A very contrived, if poignant, manipulation. As I sat there all day I became increasingly disillusioned. Which is exactly the opposite of my first experience with the rest of the show. I ended up walking down to 14th and 3rd to catch the L to my studio, seeking a sort of refuge.

This all got me thinking about my work and what I’m doing/trying to do. It’s clear my performances are not always entirely “open.” However, I’d like to think that I don’t give any false impressions, and that I encourage participation while still steering the ship. And I hope that I’m always willing to let the crowd help build at least parts of the boat. I consider what I do very serious work, which I have a ton of fun doing. I also hope that the work is both accessible and challenging. I recognize that most of this is out of my control and that I can only create what MUST be created. No more, no less. For now though, I’m done waiting. Even if waiting becomes the thing.

Anyhoo, maybe more soon, but if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the naked one in the hippie clothes covered by a suit covered by a jester uniform.