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  • June 2010
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Staring is Art, Too

It seems appropriate with the 3 Rivers Arts Festival going on to explore my recent semi-obsessive interest in Marina Abramović, and her art.

photo by flickr user C-Monster


 Abramović is an artist from Belgrade. She recently had a retrospective show at the MOMA in New York City.  Her work is described as “interventions and sound pieces, video works, installations, photographs, solo performances, and collaborative performances” and many of the performance pieces were re-enacted in the museum, along with a new work, “The Artist is Present”, where Abramović would sit every day and visitors to the work would sit across from her as long as they wished.  That was the whole work.  She sat for 736 hours and 30 minutes.

It sounds simple, and it was.  It was also very effective, judging only by the press.  I have been fascinated with looking through the MOMA’s flickr set of portraits taken of the participants, not just because celebrities can be spotted there (James Franco, Björk and family, Lou Reed, and Rufus Wainwright, among others), but because of the repeat customers that pop up and trying to figure out what the people are feeling (one commenter on the photos often leaves little haikus doing the same thing).

And I’m not the only one… Two blogs, Marina Abramovic Made me Cry, and Marina Abramovic Hotties, comb through Marco Anelli’s photos and pick crying people and attractive people to showcase.  There was a live webcam on the MoMA website.  Articles wondering how she peed if she never moved anywhere all day were written.  After the show was over, Abramović was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and stated: “I am completely destroyed.”

Performance artists are pretty amazing, providing the immediacy of reality tv with the mysteriousness of personal messages, and the added bonus of spectators sometimes being able to participate in the art itself.  Abramović once wore a hat of snakes and stood on a cross for hours.  And this is the year of the performance art retrospective. Chris Burden had himself shot in the arm as a performance in 1971.  Tino Sehgal also just had a performance art retrospective earlier this year at the Guggenheim, the first time in its history where the museum was entirely clear of traditional art.

All the art action, however, is not just in New York City.  Check out the library’s list of Pittsburgh Art Museums and Galleries, especially the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh’s home for site-specific installations.

Check out our books on Marina Abramović and performance art.

And read some fiction about artists!:


 Same Difference by (Pittsburgh’s own) Siobhan Vivian:

Emily doesn’t think there’s anything that special about her and is unsure that she should be spending the summer at art camp in Philadelphia.  But then she meets Fiona the performance artist.  Fiona is unapologetically her own self, and shows Emily a whole different way of moving around in the world.


 Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt
Remy, a talented, seventeen-year-old auto mechanic, questions his decision to join his girlfriend when she starts college in Pennsylvania after a visiting artist helps him to realize what his family’s home in a dying West Virginia mountain town means to him.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

When seventeen-year-old Ginny receives a packet of mysterious envelopes from her favorite aunt, she leaves New Jersey to criss-cross Europe on a sort of scavenger hunt that transforms her life.

2 Responses

  1. […] See the article here: Staring is Art, Too « CLPTeensburgh: Carnegie Library of … […]

  2. I never knew staring could be art and I thought it was very cool. I will be looking Marina Abramovic up in the future.

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