The film Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present (see below) focuses mostly on the presentation of her exhibition. In this article I would like to look deeper into Marina’s personal experiences during the whole process.
I saw Marina in Park City at least 5 times. She attended various workshops, meetings, stayed after movies to talk to other filmmakers and she was always very talkative, especially about her own exhibition.
The most important and many times repeated claim was that she would never ever go through this again. It required too much physical and mental strength from Marina; moreover she believes that it would never have the same affect on people as it did back then.
In the beginning organizers were very anxious of what would happen if nobody would dear to sit in front of Marina and the chair stayed empty? Marina herself took the decision to sit in front of an empty chair and wait for someone to come. However, this (that it was empty) never happened during the whole 3 months period.
It is interesting that no one limited the time a person could sit in front of Marina during the exhibition. In the film one can see that people changed constantly, but that was not the case. Some people sat for couple of minutes, while there were people who stayed there for hours. There was one person who sat in front of Marina just when museum opened its doors and stayed for 7 hours when he was forced to leave by security guards. Another person came three times and waited for about at least 5 hours each time to spend just moments with Marina. She later commented that she felt an unbearable sorrow coming from that person and was happy to help him to break away from it.
Journalists kept asking Marina: How is it impossible to affect strangers so much in such a short period of time? Some people would be crying, some laughing, some would be very thankful or sometimes they even wouldn’t be able to walk away and needed assistance.
It wasn’t an easy task for Marina. She believes that the main key lies within the emotional state of mind. According to her, in the absence of any kind of emotion the gaze mirrored back the initial emotions of the people, thus showing them the real inner self.
Marina was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to complete the task. The hardest issue was to be in a present time the whole time. Fridays would be almost unbearable, because it would be 10 hours of sitting instead of 7 as usual.
That needed not only mental but also physical preparation. It took Marina one year to complete this process. She went to India to clean her body and changed her diet, since she didn’t have lunch for 3 moths and that could cause serious health problems. She also trained her body not to want to go to a toilet during the whole day and to cope with gradually increasing physical pain.
People waited for hours and hours even slept outside MOMA just to get in.
Marina herself felt mostly touched by the security guards. She told that there are 65 guards at MOMA and many of them would come on their free days as regular visitors and would wait in a line just to sit in front of Marina.
It is unbelievable how many people were touched by this exhibition. They created groups on Facebook and still meet to discuss it. There was even Marina’s support team that came from New York to Sundance to tell others about their unforgettable experiences.
Report from Sundance Festival 2012