All these crying portraits were taken during the MoMA exhibit “The Artist Is Present” by performance artist, Marina Abramovic. Random people were asked to sit across from the world famous artist and for them both to stare at each other for unexpected amounts of time. Some minute, some hours. No one ever expected tears. But more and more seated participants became overwhelmed with emotion and began crying. Why, if they were just sitting there staring at one another? What was the artist trying to achieve?
From what I understand, the artist was attempting to engage in a way we haven’t in a very long time as people.
“This show would be extraordinarily boring for people with too much time on their hands. They waste the time they have. Those people don’t realize that every day they have time– time to actually connect with other people. We see each other on the subway, in the restaurant, on the street, but we never really see each other. Abramovic is challenging the urban trance.”
Perhaps they are realizing what they’ve missed out on or are overwhelmed for finally being “seen”.
Regardless, many people were touched by this piece and that counts for something.
Marina is known for her very daring and very interactive work. Her most famous piece is Rhythm 0 in 1974.
To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramović developed one of her most challenging (and best-known) performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her.
Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were scissors, a knife, a whip, and, most notoriously, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions.
Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) several people began to act quite aggressively. As Abramović described it later:
“The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” … “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.””