In 2010 Marina Ambrovonic had a retrospective show at MoMa, as part of the retrospective she performed a new piece: The Artist is Present. I don’t know why I was unaware of this show while it was occurring, but I only recently heard about it. The Artist is Present invited attendees to sit across from Marina in the gallery and share a moment of silence. Just sitting in silence. The piece spawned facebook groups and blogs devoted to photos of the participants. People smiled, people cried, people looked confused. Marina was serene. She was present. It’s amazing and beautiful even to read about.
I wrote my final paper in my Modern Art class on one of Marina’s performance pieces. I can’t honestly remember which one anymore, it was second semester of my senior year and I was more focused on my thesis than any other papers. But I remember parts of the research; I remember reading about her previous pieces, notably walking across the Great Wall of China to break up with her longtime boyfriend. Marina and Ulay were/are both artists, they performed and worked together during the 70s and by all accounts were a passionate pair. When the relationship was no longer working, they decided to set off on a journey: they each started at a different end of The Great Wall and started walking. In the middle the met, hugged, and said goodbye. The second half of the walk was the start of the next Journey. After that moment in the middle of China, the said goodbye and didn’t make contact with the other again. Until Marina’s retrospective, when Ulay came to participate in The Artist is Present.
This is one of the most beautiful, most touching things I have seen. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch. I’ve changed my desktop background to a still shot, to remind me. Remind me of the beauty of passion and the importance of the journey. Remind me to look into someone’s eye, to try to truly see. Remind me of the volume and multitude of things that can be expressed without speaking a word. It touches my heart.