It's all art
“Wait, y’all at the museum looking at a lady sitting in a chair all day? And she’s getting paid for that? I must be in the wrong damn line of work.”
Words from my friend back home as I explained the exhibit at the MoMA, "The Artist is Present." It is probably the epitome of “you have to be there to get it” moments. When I walked in I saw a huge taped off square area, empty except for two women woman sitting in wooden chairs. One woman had on a tan top and jeans, the other had a long white dress a la Princess Leia, with a dark brown braid laid over her right shoulder. They were just….staring at each other. Silently. It almost look like a meditation exercise. I thought it was a bit ridiculous, but people lined up all around the square for a chance to sit in the chair across from this mystery woman.
I was immediately impressed with the self control one would need to sit for hours without a break. I can’t even go two hours without a snack and here she is sitting, from March 14, 2010 – May 31, 2010. Every day. All day (almost).
Not thinking much past that, I traveled up to the exhibit about her life’s work.
Oh. My. God.
Assault! To my right is a video of a mouth screaming, next to it a video of a naked woman throwing her body around with a black bag over her head, up above is a video of that same woman angrily brushing and combing her hair. To the back of the room there is a table of 72 objects including a gun, knifes, a chain, a chainsaw and a whip. To travel from one room to the next you can opt to walk through a passageway outlined by a naked man and woman. Another couple stands motionless, pointing their index fingers at each other. With each piece explained I became more and more enamored with this woman. Marina Abramovic, the self-titled “grandmother of performance art.”
Her body of work is astounding, some brush it off as shock value, others gawk at the works as a means to transcend everyday being. I was now convinced that my friend just didn't get it. This art was simply to advanced for him to understand, but this wasn't art to him. This was people who have to much time and money on their hands.
In her piece “Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful,”she comments on traditional art as being required to match the furniture in a home.
So what is art? Is someone sitting in a chair art? Is the band playing outside the subway art? Is jumping from a window and breaking your ankle art? James Franco sat with Marina during her exhibit. He’s most known for being really hot. Is he an artist? Lady Gaga? Matisse?
I think this question is fundamentally flawed. There cannot be set guidelines for what is and isn’t art. If so, then that comes with a group of people responsible for enforcing and creating those set rules, no? Who should they be? I find myself fighting becoming a theater snob almost everyday. When a friend or family member doesn’t understand or take similar meaning form a work as I, I find myself dismissing them,
“you’re not deep enough. You just don’t get it.”
See how that happened? Girl from middle class up bringing gets educated, begins to identify with hegemonic group’s ideal of art and in turn shuns those very ideas she originally had.
And why should we be asking what is art anyway? Who gains from that? When we start categorizing, measuring, weighing the artistic value of a piece, we have missed the point. If a urinal resonates with you, then so be it. If you are moved by a Hollywood blockbuster, great. But let the choice be with the individual.
Let people choose if cans of soup or a sweeping landscape or the space between two people is art.