the artist is absent: some thoughts


The Artist is Absent is happening this Saturday at 25CPW!!  A full schedule of works to be reperformed is now posted here:

Some other updates:

  • We are in dialogue with Sean Kelly, Marina’s gallerist, regarding permission to reperform the event.
  • Marina has asked her documentary crew to film us, which we are taking as tacit approval.
  • We have over 30 performers confirmed, drawn from queer/transgender/BDSM communities, representing a wide range of race and body size

As a curator of The Artist is Absent, I’m curious to see Marina and Ulay’s work performed in my own community, by queer performers, on queer bodies. The Artist is Absent is an articulation of the unique amazingness of performance art:  unlike a painting or a sculpture, which are molded by the artist into one form and then frozen in it forever, performance art can be reperformed in whatever context makes the most sense to the audience who wishes to engage with it.

The Artist is Absent is our attempt to learn from and experience Marina’s powerful body of work.  It is produced by and for a group of people who share some commonalities with Marina and Ulay themselves: people who take themselves seriously as artists and performers, people who have negotiated their own governing principles for being in relationship with one another, people who understand the benefits of pain, people who are able to bear their vulnerabilities in public in order to transcend them.

We queers like to believe we thought of everything first, but we don’t own negotiated consent or BDSM, and even the MoMA is experimenting with same-gender couplings in its reperformance pieces.  Yet I’m curious to view the work on a set of bodies I feel more at home with, so I can focus on the ideas rather than my annoyance with the idealized perfection of fat-free young bodies. Our performers embody non-normative forms of beauty; some bravely bear the scars of top surgery.  It will also be more meaningful to me to see the work performed with gender pairings that make more sense in my community.

Our production also calls attention to the limitations of institutional presentation of this work.  The MoMA exhibition is frustrating in its necessary restrictions.  Certain modifications needed to be made in order to keep the performance institutionally professional.  As a result, many of the reperformances feel neutered and lacking in energy, not through the fault of the performers but through the translation of this work to a context that can’t quite allow it to breathe freely.  I like that instead of just criticizing the MoMA’s production, we are using it as an opportunity to do things our way.

Above all, I’m excited to pay tribute to Marina Abramovic.  Her work is immediate and intense, and extremely thought-provoking.  It’s an honor to have gotten closer to her work through producing this exhibition, and to have joined the public dialogue surrounding it.

Hope to see you there!

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