i came across a set of photos on flickr belonging to the museum of modern art (ny), it’s called marina abramović: the artist is present – portraits. naturally i was intrigued as to why there were over 1,300 photos of all these different people, some crying, and who is marina abramović? turns out she is a performance artist who is currently performing a piece called the artist is present. she sits in the museum during opening hours (7 hours a day), and you as a visitor are allowed to sit across from her in silence … for as long as you can hold out it seems. this is who you’re up against:

… and this is what might happen:

(after 29 minutes) note: this guy sat with her 14+ times.

over at nymag i read that the queues to sit opposite marina can yield up to an eight hour wait, and that celebrities like björk, james franco, marisa tomei, sharon stone and rufus wainwright sat with her.

my favourite has to be alan rickman, i don’t think anything can make this man cry…

i decided to do a bit more googling and discovered a tumblr called marina abramović made me cry which chronicles all the people who started crying and how long they managed to sit there.

(86 min)

(45 min)

(18 min)

(14 min)

(12 min)

(10 min)

(3 min)

personally i think i would just start giggling right away. it makes me think of that episode in sex and the city where carrie and charlotte go see the performance artist who neither eats nor sleeps.

all images from moma


    • well i think it just depends on each person and what they want to take away from the experience. that dude above who has been to see her 14 times said,

      “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.”


  1. I spotted this post while trying to find another one I wanted to read a second time… I was recently at this exhibit. I saw this sitting part but wasn’t really attracted to it, I had no idea people reacted like this. I went to the other part of the exhibit, with the rest of her work. Its just as enigmatic. There were videos of her with a bag on her head, naked, dancing back and forth. Of her feverishly brushing her hair, screaming. And then two volunteers, in front of a gap in the wall, totally starkers, and the plaque invited you to “pass between them”. The idea is that the volunteers try not to move but with people and their backpacks, that kind of thing, the volunteers sometimes had to bend or move a little to let the people by. I just don’t get it. Especially as I recently read an nytimes article recently on how these volunteers get groped, people make inappropriate comments to them, etc. I just don’t get it.

    • to be totally honest i don’t get performance art either, though i think 99% of the time it’s just meant to ‘promote dialogue’ – whatever it might be…. the performance you’re talking about is called “Imponderabilia, 1977” (since the exhibition at the met was a retrospective of her work,they obviously couldn’t show the original… haha)

      At the opening of an exhibition in June 1977 at the Museum of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Bologna, Abramovic/Ulay stood naked at the entrance opposite each other in such a way that the people streaming in had to squeeze singly through the gap between the two, unable to avoid physical contact. The crucial factor was that everybody had to decide whom to look at as they passed. The video focuses on both the complete view and the half-length portrait in order to capture the different reactions of the audience. Most people were looking straight ahead to avoid a direct gaze, squeezed through with a lot of physical contact or tried bumping into the bare skin of the two as little as possible. Some also held on to the artists’ shoulders. Abramovic/Ulay kept looking at each other motionless like statues flanking an entrance. In this Performance, they are forming a physical frame, confronting the involuntary participants passing through the “birth canal” with the experience of touch, the decision which side to face, and exposing them all to an unfamiliar bodily sensation between shame and an awareness of their own bodies, and to close physical contact with another human being which is generally considered disturbing between strangers. The gap between the two protagonists constitutes the actual Performance space in which the viewer plays an active part. It is fitting that this action is placed in a museum where people go as spectators, learning at the very entrance that they are involved themselves. A text on the exhibition wall stated: “Imponderable. Such imponderable human factors as one’s aesthetic sensitivity/the overriding importance of imponderables in determining human conduct.” The text refers directly to the viewer as a protagonist of the Performance who – as is so often the case with Abramovic/Ulay – is denied the opportunity of direct observation.

  2. the funny thing is: the performance artist in sex and the city is acting as Marina, in a real piece of her :)

  3. Well I believe in this. Me and my husband went and saw this I did not sit across from her because I had been crying earlier. My husband who never cries sat in front of her and about five minutes later I see tears running down his face. He gets up wipes his face and comes to me and says let’s go. I was shocked because the whole rude home was quite. Finally I asked what made him cry and he said idk the tears just ran unchecked down my face. I wanna thank her becAuse she brought his emotional side out. He also cried on the way home that night. He is one beautiful crier I will say this I love wiping tears off his cheeks.

Write A Comment

Pin It