Monday, April 19, 2010


So, at the Marina Abramovic performance art retrospective there's been some "scandalous" and "offensive" behavior on the part of the museum-goers (so much so that one Museum member had his membership revoked as he was forever kicked off the premises) least from the perspective of the performance artists and the MoMA.
I struggled while reading the article though. Isn't the piece "Imponderablia," where guests are asked to pass through a tight space between two naked bodies, supposed to evoke a strong response from the visitor?
Of course unsolicited groping is inappropriate, but outside of an "art" context, so is nakedness...the very purpose, I presume, of Abramovic's piece....not too mention her video installation in the next room where she and myriad other women shove their vaginas skyward over and over in ritualistic frenzy. She places herself and her audience in uncomfortable, difficult and inappropriate bodily situations, but the museum and performance artist's (and even NYTimes') response to this didn't sit well with me. The performance artist AND the NYTimes felt it pertinent to also mention that the, let's-just-go-ahead-and-call-him-a-perpetrator, was an older man, making sure everyone reading the article knew that he was a dirty old man. Would he have been kicked out if he'd been younger and hotter? Or if he'd groped the performance artist in an "artful" way that was a more obvious (and in my opinion, less interesting) reference to the awkwardness of the piece. I can't help but wonder that if he'd been younger, hotter and said the offensively stated line "You feel good, man" in a nasally, intellectual and "my body speaks a language" performance art accent, then people would have applauded and felt moved.


  1. I have a little trouble getting beyond my own opinion of Performance Art -- but I think perhaps the expulsion of the former-museum-member/dirty-old-man for all eternity is a little extreme. Is it common practice to expel any member who touches the "Art"?

    The artist and her subjects have opted for a public display of nudity in order to make their point. I would hope there was security on hand but also that the "Art" would be prepared for snickering, ridicule, and physical contact including hand-on-body. Though not equal to groping in offense they are all likely to happen.

    It just feels a little hypocritical, really. What if it was the former-Museum-member's "Art" to go around groping people and saying "You feel good, man"? (I know it's absurd, but so is squeezing between two naked people in a Museum space). Which is more or less what you're saying, Colby.

    p.s. My post approval word was "menis". Is that pronounced with a long "e" or short? :)

  2. Actually, I don't understand how the Museum's Board could allow such a performance piece -- two naked people facing one another in such a confined space and forcing the Museum's patrons to squeeze between them to pass into the room -- and not expect something like this to happen! It's a sexual temptation, purely and simply. Could I resist touching the penis of the man -- I don't think so. (However, I would have only brushed it with the back of my hand.)

    Honestly, I don't think I could squeeze through such a confined area without having to ask one of the people to move. (And I would ask the woman to move, of course!)

    Since I'm 57 years old, I'm certain I would fall into their "dirty old man" category.

    An interesting part of all this is, at least in what I've read, the accounts are not specific on who reported the groping, whether it was the model that was groped, or another museum patron. If the model was gay, he probably wouldn't mind another good-looking man touching him, as Colby pointed out.

    If it was the woman, she probably wouldn't have liked it no matter who did it! (I think it's a shame that there seem to be so many females who don't enjoy sex. Wait -- maybe that's why we get so many married men!)

    One doesn't expect such a knee-jerk reaction from sophisticated New Yorkers, but there are conservatives everywhere! I think the male human form can be the most beautiful thing on earth. And frankly, I want to touch such beauty -- as often as possible!

    Randal in Kansas City

  3. I love marina's work, and this piece was a pretty radical piece when it was done originally in a gallery setting. But now in a major institute, it seems to be even more radical as it is presented in such a public manner. However, I'm surprised that this is the first time during the exhibit that something like this has happened. Lots of naked people standing passively and a bunch of tourists and new yorkers makes for some awkward and pervy situations.

  4. those reactions just show the willingness of objectification of human body, willingness shown by visitors, not the artist itself. marina has created the possibility of confrontation between the visitors and the naked human body. and how this confrontation goes - it depends only on the visitors. it reminds me the work of a Polish artist, Ewa Partum, shown in the link below and called 'self-identification'

  5. I dont understand the hang up with nakedness nor with sexuality. Not always combined in reality- BUT always so for Americans (which i am.
    It folds into a morality trip that i would have hoped that 1968 toppled let alone our early triumph of 1969. For this reason I have always appreciated art that puts it in-your-face. Being younger than marina A. Its hard for me to completely place myself in the time in which she deployed these works. But I saw her (naked)(her not me) years ago scrubbing bones in a work in Venice(italy not LosAngeles) and found it very moving and not in the least bit sexual-but rather timeless.Naked is a hangup for too many americans. genitalia (which we all need) shame is rampant. why? I need my dick and she needs her pussy. To piss let alone all the other useful stress relieving things it can offer for life to continue forward.Nakedness can get you tasered in America and can land you in Prison- I think this is dreadful beyond words.

  6. I think the touching was inapproriate and the guy would have (and should have) been ejected regardless of age or looks. The piece wasn't about sex or inviting touch. Just because someone is naked doesn't make the situation sexual--this situation was not sexual. And even when the situation is sexual, like at a strip club, the performers are not to be touched unless THEY invite the touch and say it's okay. The man touched the model/performer without permission and the model/performer was made uncomfortable. End of story.

  7. "Nakedness can get you tasered in America and can land you in Prison."

    That's interesting and I hadn't considered the general mindset of the public. I imagined seeing someone walking naked down the street and I have to admit I would think that person was crazy! Whether medically insane or "crazy" in the way my art school chum boldly painted his naked body for an art piece.

    The idea that a naked person would get arrested simply for being naked is, I agree, absurd and dreadful.


  8. I saw this exhibit today at the MoMA in New York and it was really uncomfortable to be around let alone participate in.
    The few hours that I was at the museum, only one person (that I saw) actually passed through the space. And this time, it was two naked men facing eachother in the corrider. It wasn't sexual at all... aside from the fact that they were both pretty hung.
    The whole exhibition gave me the heebie-geebies. Which was what it was supposed to do, I imagine.
    Usually when I pay to see naked people, I want them to be moving... or touching me.