- SFW, because it’s art. Or is it?
Monday was a national holiday to celebrate the last day of Marina Abramovic’s exhibition and performance The Artist Is Present at MoMA, affording eager collaborators a day off to cue outside on the sidewalk like tweens for the next Harry Potter/Twilight movie. Abramovic’s latest work has inspired countless unexpected, more or less welcome and thoughtful responses, like miniature endurance pieces mirroring her epic endurance performance for over two months, from web-based real-time acts on Twitter and Tumblr, to self-serve pervs and tireless imitators. But which of these innumerable counter- and co-performers are artists, and which are just assholes?
Josephine Decker, the streaker, pictured while being escorted out of MoMA: genuine as the act apparently was, the old “physical nudity as emotional dressing-down” never comes off as unpretentious as you’d like. And in this case, stripping in front of hundreds of visitors and thousands of online viewers, and tweeting about it, seems more like self-promotion by way of scandal than any sort of emotionally earnest gesture of communion, no matter the intent. Verdict: Artist Not Present!
The projectile vomitter, gross aftermath pictured: icky as it is, this desperate soul underlined an important point about this exhibition: its institutional slickness and the relative cleanliness of all the bodies involved. This major museum-friendly performance art hides away many of the most offensive and base realities about such feats of endurance, an absence that the sight of bodily fluids suddenly makes strange. MoMA staff disagreed: “He just ran up to the outer ropes stuck his fingers down his throat and threw up. He then stumbled back and tried to throw up again, but not much came out. The guards grabbed him and kicked him out. Marina didn’t move the whole time.” She was probably peeing (what? how do you think she managed to sit there all day? diapers, dude). Verdict: Artist Is Present!
Anya Liftig, Abramovic imitator: aside from pointing out the obvious hilarity of Abramovic’s wardrobe of diaper-concealing snuggies and slankets, the Brooklyn-based self-described “performance artist” didn’t accomplish much by sitting across from Abramovic for a whole fucking day, except piss off all the people behind her in line. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but that doesn’t make it art. Verdict: Artist Not Present!
The Artist Is Absent alternative Abramovic exhibition: on Saturday a bunch of performance artists got together at 25CPW Gallery to perform some of Abramovic’s works, including several that were not included in the MoMA show (too risque?), with a strong emphasis on “queer, transgender and BDSM/leather/kink” issues “whose connections to AbramoviÄ‡’s work are frequently alluded to but rarely made explicit.” By underlining another blind spot in the blockbuster MoMA show, these artists emphasized the irrepressible and inherent plurality of performance art. Verdict: Artist Is Present!
James Franco, soap opera actor, short story writer, art critic and aspiring performance artist: Abramovic’s good friend, performing the role of charming and handsome celebrity James Franco, stopped by to smile sweetly at Marina, presumably relieving her of the intense pressure of making every sitter cry. By not taking the performance as stone-faced seriously as everyone else, Franco could have made light of the dangerously stagnated routine The Artist Is Present was becoming, but instead he looked like a buddy popping in for chips-n-dip. Shouldn’t you be in class or something? Verdict: Artist Not Present!