Written in May 2010.
I slipped into Moma on the 54th street side. The crowd was insane. I could not believe how crowded Moma was. At 10:30 on the dot there was a mad dash up the stairs, reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the golden ticket being the first spot in line I suppose). I was still waiting to get past the ticket stantion, and arrived to “The Artist is Present” a few minutes after 10:30. By that time, the line had curved around half of the room. I stood, sat, read Anna Karinina (nothing like a good book), and watched. A few minutes before 11, I got a tap on my shoulder. It was Jonathan, my classmate! He sat with me for about an hour until he could not take it anymore, leaving to look at the exhibit. Later he smuggled a chicken panini to me so I wouldn’t get hungry (he insisted, and I am glad he did). And... I waited. As I waited hour upon hour I formed a “relationship” with Marina. Not to say that I devised up some interpersonal relationship, but a relationship of a viewer to a subject. A fondness. I liken it to watching theatre or a favorite painting- after a time you begin to notice the nuances and it becomes personalized, the distance between you and subject closes. The events became the tilt of her head, a curve in the corners of her mouth...and I began to care. It made me mad when I saw a man look at her with lewd eyes, or worried when she collapsed forward for five minutes after sitting an hour with a weeping man. I wanted to offer her something, not take away. There is something so obvious and poetic about sitting with someone else and witnessing one another. I wanted to witness her. My expectation was that if I did make it to her, I would give something - will my energy to her. I did not know, nor felt I could know what I would or should get back.
As people dropped out of line, I began a conversation with “Joyce from Cupertino.” We started by talking about how insane it was to be waiting for a whole day to sit with someone for ten minutes. Conversation led to what other “crazy” things we had done (like her losing her virginity in Turkey to the sounds of midday mosque calls to prayer). Finally I got to the top of the line. When it was my turn I walked to the chair, sat- hands on thighs, and gazed into her eyes. Beautiful brown almost hazel. The lights I had criticized earlier as looking sterile were fantastic from the middle of this space. Their brightness surrounding us made everything fade back. Then I met Marina Abramovic. In that space I had an incredibly intimate meeting- I wished her courage and strength, love. Introduced myself. Saw her almost smile. In my gut I feel that we shared gratitude for this moment and that she and I were doing our darnedest to witness each other. There was a kind of dialogue but it was not a linear conversation- or at least in my memory the exchange did not feel linear- more like pulsing synapses some happening simultaneously other in a cause/effect sort of way. I wanted to stay longer, but knew that there was a woman waiting since early morning...so I told Marina I needed to go, put my hand on my heart- and walked out of the space. There is no way of knowing whether my experience was what I projected onto her, or if it was real- but I believe that it was. On my way out I was stopped by a few people who asked me “how it was.” And was told by one woman that “I did good,” that she “could see my heart in my eyes.”
Leaving Moma, I walked 60 blocks before getting on a bus home.