Friday, February 17, 2012

the artist is present, or, present for president's day

from marina abramovic's rhythm 10

the artist is present slideshow

what am i doing for president's day weekend (besides being a widow while c. is in ny seeing, among other people, julie, eva and ingrid?)

jeez, i had "forgotten" it was a long weekend.  and do you know why?  because i utterly despise the long weekend, usually floundering about in the limbo of not working but not really playing either.   that is, if i'm not in a full-blown existential spiral. 

i just can't handle days off, people.  does anyone share in my existential terror of not knowing what to do?

in honor of this, i'll write briefly about something that's been a theme in the blog and in my life this week.  first, we've discussed all this hocus-pocus about "being present", "staying on the mat", and living "day by day." & don't get me wrong, i'm fully into that stuff, but not without a bit of self-consciousness about the amount of privilege and luxury one must have in one's life to need to be concerned about these questions of choice that are so frequent in my life.  and the attendant dissatisfaction that seems to come with too much choice (that's a whole 'nother blog post).  and, you know, "being present" has become a buzzphrase of the educated middle class.  it makes me feel all bougie to even discuss it.

still, it's the educated middle class that seems to have the biggest problem with, shall we say, "presence" (and does presence mean the same thing as something like soul, or spirit?  methinks yes.)

there was another bisecting theme for me this week, and that was marina abramovic, who recently had the smashing success of a show "the artist is present" at the moma where she sat for eight hours a day, no movement, no potty or food or drink breaks, across the table from various strangers and was just there.  present. 

julie was present, too, at some of the performances, and i think it was j. who got me interested in abramaovic.  anyway, i've been writing poems about her, and i just finished a group of five today (i mean, finished the revisions on them--i've been working on them for a few weeks) and realized that maybe abramovic interests me so much because a lot of her work is about presence.  her performance is very extreme, painful, dangerous and some might say masochistic.  she claims she does it to be in the moment.  she used to forbid re-performances of her pieces because they were all about the moment for her, though she's changed her mind about that.

i guess i don't have a point except to wonder how many other people have my same aversion to holidays (especially the ones where you don't have a prescribed set of rituals to perfrom) or what y'all think about this whole notion of presence.

and p.s. i'm linking my early post on larry rivers' "washington crossing the delaware"--very different from the american classic hanging in the met (image in julie's post from today)--in honor of the prezes.

my short list goes like this (not at all fun like julie's)

1) work on grant app.
2) revise poems from mss.
3) fold laundry
4) do something kids want to do that i hate, like ice skating
5) finish season 2 of sons of anarchy

legwear:  bare--i'm already in bed in my nightie!

inspiration:  marina a.

looking forward: to yoga and donut run tomorrow morning.


  1. Hey girlie--Too bad we can't be together while the boys play in NYC. Just ordered pizza from Pagliacci and hunkering down for an evening of . . . probably reading anthropology for my postmodernism class. Or else re-reading Summerland. I'm such a sucker for Michael Chabon. So even though I suffer from serious moments of existential terror, they are usually brief. Moments. Brief and intense. Then I get to partying like a rock star. I'm wearing new charcoal heathered tights and my faux frye boots. Still. It just feels right.

    1. you know how to do it, woman. wish you were her, i were there, or we were both in nyc.

  2. Bougie! Bougie! You just expanded my vocabulary. Hey! Now I know what to do over the long weekend—search for ways to practice my new word in conversations. I have two captive post-surgery family members and they will not escape me....

    I've heard of Marina and been fascinated by her Artist is Present exhibit. Looking at the slideshow moves me. I think I envy her, and the people who sit with her, even the woman who could only stay a minute. Wouldn't I love to be the silent listener in each of their heads. What a beautiful and frightening audio track that would make. It's heartbreaking and fine, this project. I'm glad to be reminded of it and be challenged by it again. This is something like what I'm after in life. Maybe this is the other thing I'll do for Presidents' Day—meditate on and practice Being With. that sounds much clearer to me than Being Present, and not at all bougie(!).

    The problem I have with long weekends is the anxiety of choosing from a too-long list of day-off dreams how to spend the hours. Having to make the most of a day of playing hooky from routine is a stupid pressure I'm trying to shed.

    Oh! I've been meaning to ask you about something. Complete shift here—do you think Walden would be open to partnering with, say, a neighborhood fundraising effort for one of her students? Over here on my side of the tracks we are brainstorming ways to help raise money for the cost of a particular boy in a wheel chair (whose name I probably shouldn't publish here, but I believe you would know his Brit mum, Deborah)? He is in desperate need of some surgery to extend his life, and their family is in a terrible spot. It occurred to me that one simple addition to the various events that are already being planned would be a family and friends fundraiser yard sale, perhaps held at Walden. A "Give It Up for Jeromiah" sort of thing. (Yes, I know, corny.) Do you think it's something that might be a welcome discussion point with the academe? Who would be best to talk to? Just wondered if you might have any thinks about this.

    Sorry this is such an eye-popper of a comment.

    Happy manic Monday.

    1. thanks for your many thoughts. "being with" is brilliant. i'm gonna try it. as for the last part of your comment, i have forwarded it to the powers that be and will get back to you. there's also bookclub.

  3. I thought of the book club too and forgot to mention it. Glad you did. Thanks for all!