I spent a little time yesterday at the Marina Abramovic show at MoMa. The show was moving and surpising to me: one does not often have permission to stare at another person as if they are an object. And maybe this permission is inherent in all performance, but it was particularly palpable in this show.
As nude performers stood facing each other in a doorway, people stared, considered, and dared one another to pass through the space between them. I watched a group of middle-aged women pass through, one by one, high-fiving each other and giggling as they reached the other side.
In a moving installation called Luminosity, a nude woman displays herself on a pedestal high on a gallery wall, framed by a rectangle of white light, her arms splayed Christ-like. Her position, displayed as art object on the wall rather than within the visitor’s space, made looking the easy and obvious response. It was a fascinating contrast with the the performers on the gallery floor–a study in the subtle rules that govern looking.