If you’d asked me about performance art a few months ago, I wouldn’t have had a very strong opinion. While I keep an open mind, I’ve always preferred the Met to P.S.1 and masters painting infantas to hipsters painting each other. That changed when I went to the opening of Tania Bruguera: On the Political Imaginary at the Neuberger Museum of Art until April 11. I’d always heard about her pieces from friends, but it was incredible to experience twenty years of the artist’s work simultaneously. Featuring multiple performances of her work, I saw walls lined with tea packets in “Poetic Justice” (2002-3), was blinded by klieg lights in “Untitled (Kassel, 2002)”, and had my heart broken by the stench of sugar cane in “Untitled (Havana, 2000)”.
Inspired by Tania and anxious to see more, I went to a members preview of Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present opening at tomorrow at MoMA and running until May 31. Aptly named, she will be present and sitting in the museum’s atrium for 716 hours and thirty minutes at a table with an empty chair. Visitors are invited to wait in line to sit across from her for any length of time. In the galleries, actors trained by the artist recreate her most famous pieces while small screens play video footage of the original works. While many focused on her ability to endure, I was more impressed her perfect concentration and well…presence in everything she did. I couldn’t help but think of all the devices – books, magazine, iPhones, iPods – I use to make me feel that I’m not where I am – on a run, on the subway, in waiting rooms. A parallel universe I keep charged and with me at all times. Of course, that didn’t stop me from using iPhone to take this picture: