March 15, 2010  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Tech
Live-Streaming Marina Abramović: Crazy or Brave?

“We want to live-stream a silent woman, sitting still in a chair all day for three months.”—Paraphrased from a meeting a few weeks ago, followed by the sound of my hand hitting my forehead.

Screenshot from performance by Marina Abramović, MoMA, March 9, 2010

Screenshot from performance by Marina Abramović, MoMA, March 9, 2010

Working in a department that interfaces with the Internet (home of zany fun like Is This Art? and my new favorite site Selleck Waterfall Sandwich), you get used to hearing a lot of unusual ideas getting presented as Things We Need To Be Doing Right Away. I guess I should be used to it by now, since MoMA is a museum that has in its collection an alleged can of poop.

So when the Marina Abramović exhibition was starting to come together, the staff in all the departments here struggled with how best to communicate the ideas in the exhibition online—since so much of the point of performance art has to do with being in a location, in a moment in time, live. Honestly, I don’t know much about performance. A line from a funny little video made by a friend came to mind: “Here lies the sea captain, many men wondered whether he was crazy or brave.” I thought this live stream might be more of the former. And I knew that anything that seemed this simple technically would inevitably be more complicated than just turning on a laptop and connecting a webcam. I whined and ranted like a toddler.

But the project persisted in spite of my crankiness, hurdles were cleared, and we now have Marina Abramović’s performance in the Marron Atrium, a new work titled The Artist Is Present, streaming on the exhibition site, presumably for the duration of the exhibition. As the artist sat down in the chair to begin the performance, and I watched the stream from my office, I began to understand why people get excited about her work, and why maybe sometimes the craziest of ideas are the best and should be embraced. And I thought that maybe I should leave my cubicle and go downstairs to see for myself.

What do you think—harebrained Internet scheme, or a great way to engage with art?


Gruelling, perhaps, brave ????, endurance certainly! ART, i don’t think so (that is my opinion)! Sorry, but, again, in my opinion, this is yet another example of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”

I think that if Marina wants to sit in the museum every day for 3 months as her endurance art piece that’s fine, it’s her life and her art and it’s getting enormous coverage. But I have very mixed reactions to the re-staging of her earlier works by the younger artists on the 6th floor. Not because they shouldn’t be re-staged, but because MoMA has created a situation that sets them up like a shopping mall exhibit. The durational aspect of the re-staged events is irrelevant when museum visitors are encouraged by the design to breeze through. My observation was that most viewers spent just a few seconds at each station, and many didn’t even realize that the performers were real human beings!! Here they are knocking themselves out, risking life and limb suspended on the wall, and some of them fainting from the grueling task of being immobile for long periods of time. I witnessed a fainting in the doorway (Imponderabilia) and thought, my god, what if the person who is suspended on the bicycle seat were to faint? That could be fatal. This seems not just crazy but potentially homicidally negligent. Why should these young artists be risking themselves doing durational art when it makes no difference for viewers if they are there for 10 minutes or for several hours? And these performers are not even credited, they’re completely anonymous! I think that it is one thing for Abromavic to subject herself to tasks of endurance that involve risk, but when she and the museum hire others to re-enact her earlier risky performances in a set-up that actually subverts the meaning of the original performances and presents them like Madame Tussauds exhibit of torturous stress positions, then it tips from courageous endurance to sadistic and abusive.

I would like to propose that the state of waiting in line to participate in this piece be known as “marinating.”

I think it’s great and completely appropriate that you’re offering live streaming video since documentation is a large part of Abramović’s work. However I find it odd, with all of the myriad of live streaming video hosts available, you chose to go with one that appears to stream at about 1 frame per second and randomly times out after 30 seconds or less.

You stated that it’s more complicated than “turning on a laptop and connecting a webcam” but I can’t really see how or why. Several free to use hosts, such as Livestream or Ustream, would provide a high frame rate, high quality solution with no timeouts necessary. And it’s even possible that if MOMA inquired to these services, one of them might have even provided tech support to set it up and maintain it just to be associated with the project.

Since you have over 2 months left, you might want to consider a switch. Something about MOMA using 2005-level video streaming technology, especially on a pretty groudbreaking show, feels a bit sad.

Thanks for the comment, Todd.

We explored a few options including Livestream
and UStream, but those options did not meet the technical requirements we had for our equipment and our installation requirements (there are currently three other video setups as well as sizable lighting platforms in the Atrium). Additionally, we were interested in designing an experience that would not include pre-rolls or overlays of ads. The timeout should be at one
full minute.

This is the first time the Museum has live-streamed anything of a longer duration to the public, so we’re definitely learning and appreciate the feedback.

* * I have nothing to say. and I wish no one else did either. this doesn’t even deserve to be an exhibition. imagine, paying attention to a woman doing nothing at all for three months, and wanting to somehow garner support for it. what is wrong with this society.

She is writing history of performance art, and those who don”t understand I feel pity for you.

I was sooo skeptical about this exhibition … but now I am slowly getting obsessed wit Marina A. – not so much the 6th floor re-enactments – but her performance I find quite powerful in the absolute connection, though almost invisible, with the visitors in the atrium – I have spent hours “eavesdropping”, and watching and observing the returning participants … it’s very moving, and very funny at times too!

… oops, I forgot, re. the live-stream … it’s fascinating – and feeds the curiosity and “obsession” … going to the museum and being there is of course the whole point … but for the other hours of the day…
Thanks, MoMa

I visited and participated in The Artist is Present, and found it fascinating, complex, and difficult. Over all, one of the best art experiences I’ve had in NYC. Others in line were similarly excited by it – I spoke to two separate people who had come to the Abromovic retrospective the previous day without much knowledge or expectation, and then returned to MoMA the next day to participate. I’ve written a detailed account of my experience:

If you are having difficulty understanding the value of the piece, you may find it worth a read.

Saturday … end of Museum Hours … Wow, you guys cut off before the participant person even left … and this was the amazing ‘double’, the Blue Girl as I called her all day, checking randomly and then more and more intrigued … and yes, still she was sitting there with Marina … so she did it?! almost all day?! Amazing!

PS. the ‘Dance of the Feet’ in the upper part of the camera frame kept me quite amused too … not so much though the folks sitting and playing with their phones instead of being there to be with the art /performance …

March 29, 2010
Tricycle Daily Dharma

Mindfulness practice offers the restraint necessary to overcome the tug of desire upon the senses. As we notice the mind wandering off to explore a gratifying train of thought, or as we notice the body’s urging to nudge ourselves into a more comfortable position, we gently abandon the impulse and return attention to the primary object of awareness. We do this again and again, until the mind becomes content with being fully present with what is manifesting here and now in the field of experience, rather than rushing off for some other form of stimulation. As the mind settles down it becomes considerably more powerful, and thus more empowered.

– Andrew Olendzki, “The Ties That Unbind” (Summer 2007)

If that was me I would dress similar to her and act like a mirror. Is that is what she is hoping for?

Last Saturday I went to see the exhibit and was so moved that I waited (unsuccessfully) on line for two hours this Monday to sit with her. If installation and performance art are designed to be commentaries on where we are as a society, then I find this one is very relevant. A year and a half ago I trained as a life coach. During one exercise, we had to sit and look at one another silently, with no distractions. The exercise was both powerful and extremely difficult. Our life today is about staying busy and distracted. Sitting and witnessing one another, seeing beyond the masks we wear, can have such a liberating effect. When we really ‘see’ each other, we are released to be ourselves and we get the strength to confront the constant onslaught of distractions. From this perspective, I think that the statement Abromovic is making is hugely important.

lol ppl is turning more stupid now go to see a woman just sitting hahahhaha what is next ^^ go se a old woman sleeping damn, da vinci must be in hell if that happen

What pitiful decadence.

The Sad state of humanity.

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