Filmed by Preetha Jayaraman.
It’s good to have an end to journey toward, but it’s the journey that matters in the end. Ernest Hemingway said it eloquently, but this is a common belief. It’s the quintessence of Hindu philosophy. It’s the very foundation of performance art. And what is performance art? It’s whatever the artist calls art. You could stand naked in a museum, motionless, and it could be art. There are definitions and there are definitions. But it all comes down to one principle. That of time. It is a piece of art that must be centered on an action orchestrated by an artist. It has a beginning and an end, and it exists only within the time it is created.
“I don’t want an audience to spend time with me looking at my work,” says Marina Abromovic. “I want them to be with me and forget about time.” Abramovic has done it all. She has sat motionless in a wooden chair at The MOMA eight hours a day for three months straight without food or pee breaks. She has stood with 72 objects on a table – among them a rose, a feather, a whip, a knife and a gun – and asked the audience to use them on her however they wished. (She was carried around, caressed, pricked, cut, scalded, nearly raped and almost shot in the head.)
I went to her lecture at the Université d’Avignon, and she said something that day I can’t quite remember, but I can’t quite forget. When she was little and she announced that she wanted to become an artist, her dad asked his friend to take her to the art store to buy art supplies and teach her art. He bought loads of paints and canvasses, and when they came back home, he threw them into a pile and set them on fire. Then he pointed to the psychedelic blaze before them and said, “this is art.”