Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"When Susan Buck-Morss comments upon avant garde artists working in the contemporary art milieu whose projects explore their own bodies as artworks she casually mentions 'masturbating under the gallery floor,' a reference, no doubt, to Vito Acconci’s installation piece Seedbed, which would have forced viewers/participants, in the moment, to shatter any sense of removed simulacra, something sexualized and confrontational but removed by distance and false narrative and consequently possibly harmlessly consumed, and be present with the tactile reality of the artist’s body- not a representation of a body. This gets at the issue of time. When viewers recently sat with the artist Marina Abramovic in her installation The Artist is Present, time became something viewers were acutely aware of, and had to rest within. They had to commit to the entire process of standing in a line to be with her, despite the pull of so many other potential obligations, then measure, second to second, while they sat with her, what their bodies could handle, what they would have to prioritize to measure out however many minutes they would spend with her. They would have to examine their own motivations for being with her: Was it pertaining to strata of a class-defined nature? Was it marked by spiritual pursuit? What, precisely or abstractly, would that mean? And what might they owe the artist? And whose time actually has value? In the moment of stillness, with no removing simulacrum to indulge the senses, other senses come to the fore, and questions stir. This is a sample of how art can continue to function politically- by creating a context for examination of choices. And this is the kind of installation that demonstrates precisely what is meant by "cognition through feeling." To observe some of the physical reactions of those who sat with Abramovic, ranging from pained discomfort to teary rapture, may illuminate Buck-Morss’s essential point: that work examining time, in conjunction with aiming to stun with beauty, rather than shock with violence, is the kind of work with the most potential, in this particular cultural moment, to 'shine through the disharmony of the world.'"