Sunday, May 23, 2010

Skin Fruit/ The Artist is Present

What better to do on a slightly-cloudy spring Sunday in New York than a little museum-hopping? Today I made it to two: the New Museum's "Skin Fruit," curated by Jeff Koons, and MoMA's "The Artist is Present" by outlandish Yugoslavian performance artist Marina Abramović. Both exhibits left a lasting impression on me-- and really got me thinking about what defines art in this day and age. Though I draw and paint, I could never in my wildest dreams imagine creating anything like the pieces I viewed today.

"Skin Fruit" showcases a plethora of often bizarre, utterly modern, mainly sexually-themed pieces from the collection of Greek billionaire Dakis Joannou, including a basketball suspended in the middle of an aquarium filled with chemically-treated water by Koons himself, and two live-performance pieces (in one, a male model changes into a loincloth behind a screen, then climbs a ladder to hang himself on a wooden cross suspended on the gallery wall; in the other, a museum guard sings "This is propaganda, you know, you know" as visitors enter the room). These are the tamer of the works-- most of the others are overtly sexual and even sometimes a little disturbing (a ClayMation video of a woman having her way with a tiger, a sculpture made entirely of male sexual organs, etc).

Some of the less graphic pieces from "Skin Fruit" at the New Museum: Rodin... The Thinker (1977) by Chris Ofili, Aluminum Girl by Charles Ray (2003) and Noodles (2009) by Urs Fischer

an interesting piece from "Skin Fruit"....

"The Artist is Present" was another story entirely-- though no less shocking. In her groundbreaking, often boundary-testing performance artwork, Abramović explores the relationship between performer and audience, the state of consciousness of the performer and her own physical and psychological limits. Her past performances have included placing herself at the mercy of others and sometimes even in grave danger (for one of her pieces, she provoked a poisonous snake and then mirrored its actions; for another (arguably her most famous piece), she allowed audience members to inflict their will upon her with various items that she laid out for their usage, including knives, nails, hammers, shards of glass and a gun with a single bullet). Her exhibit this spring includes a chronological installation of her past work in photographs, video and "recreations" of performance pieces, using live models (an example: visitors must pass in between a nude man and woman, standing facing each other in a small hallway, to get into the final room of the exhibit). In addition to this, Abramović herself is, as the title would suggest, present: she sits in a chair, staring straight ahead, for the duration of the museum's hours, inviting visitors to sit across from her and stare into her eyes.
Marina Abramović in the early 1970's, testing the boundaries of trust with Ulay, a German performance artist with whom she often collaborated

...and another performance collaboration with Ulay, in which the two artists "breathed each other's oxygen" (They soon lost consciousness).

A link to exhibition site (Watch some of the interviews with the artist; it's fascinating to hear her talk about her work and the motivation/inspiration behind it):

I recommend both exhibits, but with a caveat: suffice it to say that you might be exposed to a few more pieces of "skin fruit" than you bargained for...

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