Visitor Viewpoint: MoMA’s Mystery Man

Those of you who have clicked through the visitor portraits in our Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present Flickr gallery, taken by Marco Anelli, probably noticed some familiar faces. Apart from a few celebrities in the mix (Sharon Stone, Rufus Wainwright, Isabella Rossellini, to name a few), there are a number of less famous faces that repeat day in and day out, almost as often as Marina herself. These Marina devotees have become micro-celebrities in their own right, at least around the Museum; the guards know them by name, and fellow visitors waiting their turn to sit with Marina regard them with an air of what may best be described as reverence.

Paco Blancas, a NYC-based make-up artist, is one such visitor. After seeing his portrait a number of times on Flickr, I found myself wondering, “Who is this mystery man? Why does he keep coming back? Why is he crying in so many of these photos?” I wanted to know his story. As luck would have it, last week I spotted him seated in the Marron Atrium, back for his fourteenth sitting with Marina. He shared a few words about his experiences with the piece and what compels him to keep coming back.

How many times have you sat with Marina so far?

I think today was number 14.

When was the first one?

The first one was March 11, two days after the opening.

Why do you keep coming back?

I think Marina’s piece has a very strong magnetism. It’s hard to explain but it’s almost like you feel this force, it draws you in, like a magnet. Sitting with her is a transforming experience—it’s luminous, it’s uplifting, it has many layers, but it always comes back to being present, breathing, maintaining eye contact. It’s an amazing journey to be able to experience and participate in the piece.

Also, I love meeting people in line. I’ve met a lot of people and have made a lot of new friends, many of them artists, but really all sorts of people. I keep in touch with them and we e-mail constantly to talk about our experiences. It’s like a little community of people who come to participate in the piece.

I noticed in a number of the photographs recently published online that you’re crying in many of them, and I saw you cried today. What about the experience elicits that emotion from you?

She almost acts as a catalyst. She presses the button that makes you feel all these emotions and feelings. I think through the concentration and the focus, plus the energy of the audience, it creates this movement within you. It’s very subtle the way it happens. Maybe it’s just an image that pops while I’m connected with Marina. Let’s say it’s an image of someone I love deeply, and then this creates the emotion, the tears just come out. Most of the time it’s tears of joy. You’re just being and thinking about somebody or something that’s important in your life. And then just acknowledging this person or situation and moving on into being present because yeah, the tears come, but I don’t want to cry for the entire sitting. I want to move on and continue to be with Marina, to be present.

You seem to have developed a very deep connection with her work. Can you talk a little about why?

Something I was very interested in is that she said she’s not interested in doing anything she’s not afraid of. I find it fascinating that she has to do something that she’s afraid of all the time, but she’s done it over all these years, and she gets over the fear, she goes over the fear. I don’t know how to explain, it’s almost like she flies over the fear, the danger, the risk… and I love that. It’s all about taking risks, and going beyond, and pushing the limits. I like these words that she said: “Who sets the limits?” I’m not saying it right, but it’s a very profound phrase because we think we can only go so far, but she’s teaching us that we can go beyond what we think we can do and I love that about her.

It’s interesting how in a city like NYC where everyone’s always rushing about, people will stop and wait and kind of be displaced in time in this piece.

I think that’s a really important aspect, now that you mention it. Because, yeah, we’re always like, “I have to do this, I have to do that.” But when I come here, I don’t make any plans because I know I’m going to be here and I don’t care what time it is. I just let go and forget about it. Sometimes we’ve been there for so many hours on line and you don’t even notice it, it’s like “Oh, how come it’s so late?” You don’t feel time anymore. Time stops, and there’s just this energy.


Groupies, yech. personal adulation is teh enemy of art, whihc is teh unification of mind, body and soul, Humanity, nature and god. This is entertainment, a rock star among a small cult.

This is not Modern art, it should be in some small Chelsea gallery of pseudo intellectuals like Winkleman’s. But not at MoMA, this is absurdist spectacle at its lowest, MoMAS needs to stop with trying to apear to be hip adn current, be about what lasts, and has true power, not cultish nonsense. We got enough new age spiritual centers out there that do the same thing, and equally vacuous.

It’s all about the Self, and so dated as soon as it is “performed”. Wish I was there with my chess board, the old master of games and decadent self involvement would smile at that. Is laughter permitted? These folks are just too damn serious, about nothing.

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the Ivories.

I love you guys but you really need a more legible font on this blog. Plain old Arial works just fine, not bold, just plain. If you want people to read it,it really needs to be legible.

this beautifully captures what seems to be at the essence of this piece.

people have many different reactions to it and all are valid, but it is a performance that is about duration so it stands to reason that there are some aspects of The Artist Is Present which may be best (or must fully) understood by experiencing the piece over time.

He’s right about the emotional power of the performance. But, everything you feel is your own. It’s not really because of her, but more facilitated by her. She provides a something like a mirror, a moment to reflect and be introspective about your life.

I sat with Marina for about an hour and 40 minutes yesterday. It was amazing and indescribable. I can absolutely understand why Paco keeps coming back.

Dear Donald Frazell: wow, you’re very sad and totally obvious. Maybe you should cease to be so obvious in your ideas and speech. You speak of cults negatively but your cult is that of “critique”, which is the cult that needs most to be destroyed.

I know art schools like to say there is no definition to art, an obvious absurdity, their speciality, as if there is no definition there is no word. Words are but manbmand symbols of definitions we agree to. The rest of us know those definitions, applied arts, pop arts,fine art, and what is truly seperate and lasts, creative art. Entertainmenst such as this are the lowest common denominator, even among a small group of those who think they are more “clever” and “smart” than everyone else, so only “they” get it. Talk about myopic arrogance.

In music it is simple, jazz, many latin american, and European classical musics as well as Indian are creative musicsis. Popular like swing, now Pop, is for a broader culture, entertainment, not art. But its yin to arts yang.

And only artists are decent critics, anyone who quotes critics is a fool, especially other critics. Even artists themselves are often not great verbal communicators, they communicate visually. There is no visual here, but theatre drop outs and bad writers in “conceptual” and performance, and now John Waters wannabe’s as fellow exhibtionist’s.

Don’t drink the Koolaid.
Support and preserve true great art, Save the Watts/Rodia Towers, tear down the careerist Ivories of the museo/academic/gallery comlex, as evil as the military/industrial one.. Here is how.
Have a nice day.

Thanks to Julia and Paco for this … I totally agree: the piece is magnetic, even hypnotic … I have been ‘in the line’ yesterday and even if the day went by and “it” (the sitting) did not happen for me it was fascinating nevertheless, … and all the other days (at least once or twice a week) just watching the performance, the participants and: all the enormously divers visitors, comments, faces … it has, as Paco said, many may layers!

Thank you for posting the interview. I have seen the Abramovic piece twice now and can attest to its thoughtfulness and its intensity. It’s a bold and sincere work of art. So are the Watts Towers. It’s a shame that some people do not see sincerity across different media.

Again, it is sincere as you want it to be, and as you are. But most defninitely, it is NOT Modern art. MoMA, stop growing just to grow, and trying to be hip to nerds, stick to what you do best. And invest in the Rodia creations, Nuestro Pueblo, which are the greatest work of art in western America, and definitely Modern. As much so if not more than Gaudi, for they are sculpture, not architecture. Come out here, LACMA has failed for 55 years, and the Getty since its creation. Here YOU can fulfill your purpose.

art collegia delenda est

Who is this mystery man?

Another performer, obviously.
John Waters cousin?
He will milk this for all its worth, it is entertainment after all.

We’re all obsessives. Some of us have exclusionary agendas, and that’s just good old blog entertainment.



Can we change this terrible wave of sadness in the world right now? Honestly, why can’t Abramovic smile? There is truely, NOTHING, to be sad about. This can not be classified as spiritual, this is more of a joke to spirituality. I think the idea of eye gazing is beautiful, in order to connect to another human being without speech, but it does not have to be so serious. It seems that Abramovic is just spreading negativity, during a time in this world when people need more optimism. I do agree that it takes a lot of human will power to open up in front of the world the way Abramovic does, but it’s also unnecessary and a bit pathetic, not to sound harsh. Why does the world have to know how upsetting it was for her to see her ex-lover? We all have ex-lovers. Does it mean we are inclined to feel terrible? Can we look at these things on a more positive note? Let the world rejoice in beautiful experiences that we as individuals have come across in our lifetimes. Let’s simply, SMILE.

I think that Marina’s piece is more about the person staring at her and attributing their own thoughts, ideas, and emotions onto her. Paco is experiencing all this emotion because he is attributing it all to Marina, but she’s not doing anything other than just staring right back. I guess you can say I’m a little irked when he says that she presses his buttons but she’s just staring at you! Paco is pressing his OWN buttons. He needs to realize that and stop worshiping her as a god. I have nothing against Marina Abromovic’s work, in fact I’m quite a fan myself, but I feel that Paco is crossing the line of admiration into obsession.

Let me be honest with everyone here. I don’t know a lot about the art world, museums, modern art, galleries, and all that.

Some things make me feel a certain way and some things make me feel nothing at all. Things I see, things I hear. Some of those things people call art.

Why don’t we let them? If it makes me feel something emotionally, I think it’s okay to call it art. Why does it seem there is always some pitiful creature at the ready to criticize peoples work?

I think this is a very interesting thing that Marina has done. The pictures are fantastic. This Paco guy sounds pretty intense. Molly, I love your message. I don’t know why everyone in the art world is so sad and serious. Enjoy it!

Donald Frazell, You don’t need to fill the emptiness inside you with ugliness and critique. There is some entertainment in Ambramovitch’s work, but look at the reality t.v., consumer-driven world we live in. I see it as intense, devoted commentary and I don’t know of an artist working in any medium with her level of commitment. You really should be ashamed of yourself! Didn’t your mother ever tell you if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all? If you want to dispute her commitment channel that into your own work, not bitter blog posts!

Again, simply put, she doesn’t belong in MoMA. This isn’t Modern art, besides the point of whether it is art at all. Go to the Whitney, so those like me who come to see the descendants of the post impressionists and northern expressionists who created universal languages built on world cultures wont feel insulted, because the art in the building is being diminished by children’s desires. This IS therapy, for those with issues. Not art, so off to the Whitney or New Mausoleums with you.

art collegia delenda est
One can never overturn falsehoods or reflect humanity from within the belly of the beast. None of the true Moderns were academics, or supported the status quo like this old bird.

Hi, I’m a NYC student doing a project on Marina Abramovic. I’m interviewing people about Marina’s art and I’m wondering if anyone here has sat with her and would be willing to answer a few questions about the experience and your opinions on it. It would be a great help. Thank you.

Abramovic’s simple presence…negates the crowded clustered purdah folks experience in a megatropolis like NYC. She is a reflective oracle that conjures up people’s innermost thoughts…and forces them to the surface. I am hundreds of miles away, and feel affected by their experiences…pretty damned powerful piece if you ask me.

Not a cult? LMAO! Koolaid all around.
Children, when will they ever learn, or grow up.

art collegia delenda est

Man I’m perplexed.

Loved a good deal of her work on the 6th floor.

I saw him the day I went. Unfortunately it was on a rather short (3hr) class trip so I didn’t have time to stay and watch, or, more importantly, time to sit. He had an odd air about him, going up to sit. kind of like a, “Alright, I’m ready” mixed with a “Shit’s about to go down” movement.
But haters gonna hate.

[and now I wish I had a car to drive back up… ;____;]

Abramovic’s work is hyper modern not modern. Modern art ended in the 60’s.Know your history before you comment.There are many layers to this work.It is brilliant,profound and is an extraordinary commentary on the act of art making and audience.One needs to understand true contemplative practice as well as shamanism and the history of performance art.Much of this not art actually, but life. It is very human.If one wants to fight it.Fine.Abramovic is your mirror. This will disappear.Many are moved to tears and should be.Intellectually and emotionally she is holding within her centuries of knowledge which comes thru in her presence.It is the most brilliant work of our time. One does not need to be a “groupie”. Non attachment is the name of the game here. This will all be gone in a matter of days.We will be talking about nothing. Perhaps that is the most profound thing of all. Critical folks who want to complain will need to find something else to latch on to and they will.

That YOU will be talking about nothing is YOUR problem, I got plenty going on. A show out here and working with others to build up the area around the Watts/Rodia Towers, Pueblo Nuestro, OUR Town and raise funds to preserve them, the greatest work of art in the Western US.

As I said, this old do nothing girl does not belong in MoMA, she is contempt art, all about the individual and their visions of themselves as lil gods, when truly just pains in their parents wallets. Take this narcissistic nonsense over to the New, it is the haven of the hyper sensitive, and nothing doers.

art collegia delenda est
fine art colleges must be destroyed

i went to marina’s show tonight; it was my third visit. i personally think its incredible. i also saw paco. didn’t talk to him, but he strikes me as a very genuine person. in an age where people put all their energy into constructing a particular image to present to those around them, often a very false identity, i think its great that there are those who will allow themselves to be vulnerable especially in front of so many.

Frazell, i went to your website. i think your art is crap. just not my thing, but that is actually ok. its probably someones thing. all types of art can exist and should exist. considering how different people are given their life experiences, where they live, etc, the same pieces of art will not resonate with everyone. and thats great.

Frazell, i find it odd that the “shop” section on your website purposely stands out. is someone primarily profit driven?

also, frazell, you my friend need to step down from the soap box. perhaps rely less on the tired reworked dramatic statements. and in a language you can understand, put down the kool-aid and step away

i dont go to art school, i dont care about art school or who goes to art school. also, who really cares about the exact differences in whats contemporary art or modern art. i mean, the moma has an ipod on display. frazell, perhaps thats something you may want to take issue with

I went to MOMA Friday night to see a great but small and under-promoted exhibit, “Mind and Matter: Alternative Abstractions, 1940s to Now”.
(May 5–August 16, 2010).

Later, I stumbled upon Marina in her chair and immediately noticed Paco on the sidelines. It was rather uncomfortable seeing Marina swathed in long, heavy white clothing with what looked like a blanket that trailed to the floor. Is face to face communication so rare that it’s now fit for a museum piece?

The publicity and reaction to this performance is what is so interesting to me. My niece keeps posting about this on Facebook so I will try to learn more and to keep an open mind about it all. As a New York Post Page 6 reading New Yorker I can’t help but check out which celebs and artists are sitting across from Marina like just plain folks.

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.

.. “she said she’s not interested in doing anything she’s not afraid of” .. thanks, Paco for relaying this highly significative and relevant comment.

How does one know one *is* present and not just daydreaming, not excluding about being present?
As long as I am within my comfortable boudaries, I am not likely to learn anything new. Witness babies, who fall and stumble all the time, but also learn all the time too.

I had meant to visit really Henri Cartier-Bresson’s exhibit, but found Marina’s performance compelling -and not so distant from Cartier-Bresson’s own philosophy – How to capture that “Decisive Moment”? .. Being present is certainly a necessity.

As my tribute to both artists, I took a slightly dangerous shot, sort of through the objections of the museum guard

Donald Frazell, you shouldn’t try to impress people with modified Latin quotes when you obviously don’t know the language. My Latin is very rusted – could someone please point out all the errors in ‘art collegia delenda est’? Are there three? Four? Or more?

IF it can be said that art is philosophical and may be striated along the lines of efficacy in its philosophy, then art does require some real interaction by the observer, which can be – but does not have to be – facilitated by disclosure of the artists perspective. In this case its appreciation and creation itself seem to require effort and participation.

I am not partial to performance art, since I often find the philosophy of a work to elude me. However, what I find most interesting about this work is what people place on the blank canvas that Abramovic presents to her participants. The emotional revelations of her constituents may be the art here, and the artist the easel.

I am reminded of a piece I saw at MOMA a few years back. Set on the floor was a neat stack of identical posters, each one printed with the mug shots of about 100 convicted murderers. There were at least 10,000 copies in the pile. I wasn’t sure what to make of it until I saw that people were taking them – presumably as art. There were posters ALL OVER the museum. They were rolled up in people’s bags, folded, discarded in garbage cans, laying in the garden. I considered that THIS was the art – which transcended it’s original stack. Philosophically this became a powerful piece, which silently made so many comments on its viewers / participants themselves – about transience, virility, desire, social conscience, waste, etc.

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. What people place in one, considered philosophically, is to me the art of this piece. For example, one contributor was concerned about sadness. Is there sadness here, or does she simply find the emptiness to be sad? If, in fact, this is the philosophy of the work, then as a participant myself I say Bravo.

As an aside, these points – or even their contemplation – seem lost on Mr. Frazell, who seems unwilling to participate, and is critical of those who do. Frazells Gaudi-esque towers are interesting and seemingly valuable folk art. However he chooses the wrong forum, and the wrong methods – hostile, irrelevant, disruptive, uninformed ranting – to childishly attempt to change the topic to his own. His contempt and derision serve only to unveil his own insecurities, and the only one here pouring the KoolAid to which he refers is him. Happily, it seems no one is drinking it…!

Blogs are perhaps the written equivalent of the solipsistic episode most of you seem to be experiencing. Your comments are less motivated by what you have seen, heard or participated in than in responding to other blogs and in doing so revealing yourselves. I too think there is a strong aspect of theater in all of this, however, theatricality also occurs in a painting or a site-specific installation or a 19th century political, public statuary. Let each receive whatever he or she or they are able to absorb. It also strikes me that the showing of photos of the participants on the internet is reminiscent of Warhol’s test shots and prints — isn’t it ultimately, everyone’s 15 minutes of fame? Nothing wrong with that!

Good art is provocative and Frazell has clearly been provoked. Now he needs to think – and a bit of time in the atrium with Marina might help him get started.

Bueno,conexión,humanidad positivismo,espiritualidad,todo,todos,con todos,ustedes,nosotros,el mundo

I wasn’t impressed with her sitting there until I went upstairs and saw her whole retrospective.

Art is usually about the artist, and her way of telling you something or pointing something out to you. Abramovic’s work was about you and your own history and what you brought to the art. At one point the nude woman ten feet up on the wall at the end of the exhibition locked eyes with me and for a moment I was self conscious, and then I realized I was totally fine, I was looking at her like a work of art, I didn’t recognize her as human. It’s little turns of thought and subtle messages that make her art meaningful.

Don, an opinion is like a dick. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it but don’t go shoving it down strangers throats, okay? You’re obsessed with that tower and you’re deliberately blinding yourself to other possible ways of seeing art. Art is what you, the viewer, get from it. Clearly people are getting something from this, so it’s successful and museum-worthy.

Iv saw Paco several times. Every time I saw this man he was crying. I always wondered what brought the tears to his eyes. I wanted Many times to offer him some tissues something to dry his tears. I sat once and watched him let tears drip down his face. I’m glad to know they were tears of joy.

I wonder what makes Donald Frazzle glued to this blog post. What stirs him so much about Marina’s work that he could be bothered to repeat himself so often, unchangingly – and become MoMa’s flag bearer – a job he wasn’t offered in real life. Perhaps virtual life allows this kind of childish fantasy to play it self out. Enjoy Donald. This is the only place you can hope someone will notice you.

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