The Artist Is Present : How Is This Art?

Marina Abramovic. I guess this name is probably not familiar to your ears. I also hadn’t known anything about her nor her works until I stumbled upon her documentary film that traces her prolific career during the preparation of her exhibition in Moma in 2010. The exhibition itself is titled “The Artist Is Present” which is also the title of the doco. In the exhibition, the Yugoslavian-born performance artist sat for 750 hours (nearly 3 months), no talking and just staring to each visitor that kept coming and lining to be given attention, the artist’s and audience’s communication is performed without speech nor body contact, just by looking at each other’s eyes, as it’s true, eyes are the windows of the heart.

But why??? Why did she do that? I can’t even sit in the same position for 2 hours (that’s why I quit my job), and she nailed 750? And the question is, how is this art??

My question is also mentioned in the beginning of the doco, I guess that’s what most people think of in the first place, especially if we never thought deeply about art and which can be called as art. The doco doesn’t state the answers explicitly, because art is the interpretation towards it. Art explains in the way that makes people think and feel and done using techniques that can be learned.

After reading some definitions about art by respected artists and authors, I conclude (for myself) that if something can only touch the brain, but not feelings, it’s not art. If it only moves feelings but doesn’t make people think, it’s not art. And if it’s done coincidentally, no techniques, it’s not art. That’s why, being an artist is not easy. Hence, sitting and giving attention to strangers with no talking may sound easy peasy, but look deeper before you judge, it’s not easy to be done, the performer has to make preparation to train herself to be able to not only physically do it, but also to be mentally ready to focus and clear her state of mind to every new stranger, giving everyone the same clear start and be present.

Well, ask yourself, how much are you really being in the moment with the people you’re with without thinking of other things. Sometimes we forget to really enjoy the moment because our head is somewhere else, whether it’s on the laundry, Instagram feeds, the country’s economy, or the Game of Thrones’ episodes.  That’s why I like yoga because it unites the mind, body and soul, to really be present and clear the noise in my restless mind. Savasana, the sleeping position in the end of a sequence is truly the hardest asana if we really understand what it is about. As Marina herself stated, “We always project into the future or reflect in the past, but we are so little in the moment.”


For me, some of her other works are also amazing even though it put herself in potential serious dangers. Like in Rhythm 0 (1974) she invited audience to use any of 72 objects on her body in any way they desired, completely giving up control. People hate her and call her satan worshipper, whether it’s true or not it doesn’t matter for me. I always find artists make their selves ambiguous. Anyway, the artist’s beliefs and other personal stuffs should not be an issue to appreciate art. I idolise the works, not the artists, because the works remains the same while the artists may change.

I also dig in about her works with Ulay–her true love who then cheated on her **Oh man, that’s the most blunder thing in your life! One blog post cant be enough for me to talk about her works, they really make me think of deeper questions in life and about society we live in. I really hope to meet someone whether in person or online to discuss about it. Please let me know if you think there are other artist names that I should learn about, I will be happy 😀

2 thoughts on “The Artist Is Present : How Is This Art?

  1. Hi Citra,
    If you are not aware you should learn about Eiko Ishioka. She is famous for her outlandish and surreal designs during a time in Japan which was heavily dominated by men and grew to prominence for her creativity.

    Please do look her up for inspiration 😁


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