7.1 The Artist is Present

A few weeks ago, I woke very early on a Saturday morning. At 5:00am, I just popped right up out of bed and couldn’t fall back asleep. I figured I might as well watch something of substance and knock another movie off my growing Netflix list. I decided to on the Artist is Present, a profile on installation artist Marina Abramovic. For some reason I can be emotional in the mornings. And on this particular morning, it was worse than usual - a complete and utter bubbling mess almost from the start of this documentary. I try with visual art, I really do and I can and do appreciate it, but am uneducated and so some things are lost on me. Installation art is even worse, the exhibits I’ve been to often leave me wondering if I’m missing something.

As Marina’s life unfolded, I developed a very quick and profound respect for her art. The film centred around a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibit re-created some of her works, a sort of greatest hits. In addition, she presented a new piece where for three months, she sat on a chair and visitors to the museum sat across from her. Sounds simple, almost mundane, but it struck me right away. There’s something about another person not just looking at you, but looking inside of you. There were many tears and laughter from the people who sat across from Marina. She became a reflection for people to see themselves in a new way, to see themselves in a truthful way.

The movie quickly took a different turn. Marina felt she had to get some type of closure in her relationship with fellow artist Ulay. They were together for ten years and their personal and professional lives entertained completely, developing many installations together. They even made a film where each of them started at one end of the Great Wall of China and they walked towards each other, meeting in the middle. By the end of that walk, Marina knew that their relationship was over due to Ulay’s infidelities.

Many years later, they reunited before the retrospective and you could see that they still had a deep love for each other. But that wasn’t the most amazing part.

Ulay visited the exhibition and sat across from Marina. She is usually looking down until she feels the person across from her. This time, she looked up and found the man she so deeply loved. In those few minutes, in some way, you could trace their entire relationship: the love, the heartbreak, the work they did together, the years they spent together. An emotionally charged moment, they moved through smiles to thoughtful looks to tears and finally to embracing each other.

I wrote all this because it was nice to write out. This documentary pops back into my head all the time since I’ve seen it. I want someone to see me the way Marina and Ulay saw each other. They know each other like no one else does, it’s like a secret that the two of them hold, and a secret like that is powerful. I’ve long thought that I want an impossible partnership, one where we can love each other and work together and have a tremendous amount of respect for what each brings. I had given up and wondered if this was something of dreams. But it exists and is possible.

So, all I want is to fall profoundly in love with someone that is intelligent and engages with her artistic side, I want us to be able to collaborate with each other, and I want everything to match up emotionally and physically, minus the infidelities. I'd even be up for a walk across the Great Wall of China.

Seems like not too much to ask.