I wasn’t sitting directly in front of her, I was not in that room. I couldn’t hear her breathe as her eyes settled within mine, and yet I could feel the intensity of her gaze even through a YouTube video as she was in a session with someone else. I am referring to Marina Abramovic’s, “The Artist is Present” experience. When her eyes watered, mine wept. As she accepted my persona, I released. I could not believe the strength I found in her presence, triggering goosebumps on my skin. I was quieted as she embraced me, my whole me. Why is this work of hers so powerful? Why is it titled, “An art made of trust, vulnerability and connection?” What made each person sit down in that chair across from Marina? What allowed their emotion to finally cease being superimposed?
The active and passive duality in her approach to take and give throughout the session showcased empathy in its perfected form. It’s incredibly moving to be able to allow a stranger an unself-conscious release without words, touch, or written exchange. Then I realized she is giving them something that is a rapacious luxury these days- diligent time. It is true. We have become this nation of wandering ants. We used to have a purpose, we once knew what we needed to do in order to sustain our livelihood as a whole, but somewhere along the lines of technology and media leeches, we have lost connection with the ‘whole.’ We ignorantly assure ourselves multiple times throughout the day that that connection is there because we are tweeting, liking, and sharing but we don’t realize that those social media bullied acts are mindless and irrelevant. The wired constant need to open, scroll down, scroll up, swipe, click on, refresh, post, check views, recheck views, rinse and repeat causes our insides to spaz. We are not at peace in our own skin. By the end of the day we feel drained, mentally exhausted, visibly strained. We blame our jobs, families, even kids, but we are reluctant to point fingers at the various accounts and apps we use and abuse in attempts to display our ‘busy,’ ‘most interesting’ and ‘fabulous’ lives. Click, post w/caption “breakfast at my favorite place,” and yet its the first time you’ve actually eaten at that breakfast place. Who are you kidding? Record, post w/caption, “my super cute, super loud niece…I love her.” Actually your niece is hungry that’s why she’s loud, sis do you mind feeding her while I wash the dishes. Your sis’s obtuse reply, “I don’t want to feed her, she’s too loud and messy.” I thought you found her loudness to be cute enough to love, that is what you posted just now?
I cant keep up with the ever-changing world of new apps designed to enhance the “your wonderfully, ridiculous display of self.” I do not deny the benefits of social awareness projects, I will not downplay the importance of instant information sharing, however, the emotionless exploitation of these outlets has run me ragged. As the performance continued, Marina eventually asked for the table to be removed so that there was absolutely nothing in the way, nothing separating artist and subject. She invited you, all of you, solely you. No phones to distract your eyes, no work to hide behind, no life to decorate. She invited you to be alone with you. At first we are uncomfortable at the thought, our bodies become stiff, we are guarding ourselves. Then our minds begin to reflect, our hearts permitted to feel, vanity gives way to humility, and we are simply human like everyone else; flesh, blood, bone and muscle. When we allow human to be our identifier we instantly lose the need to compete and deceive. We see ourselves for ourselves, we see our faults, we see our shortcomings, we see the pain and we tell ourselves that it is ok and we will be ok. When we are raw and honest with our own self, and completely vulnerable to our imperfections we connect and engage, in this case with the artist. We weep because we see and we accept and this unfamiliar ordeal requires immense strength. Marina incites us to steadily pull back the curtains of our comfortable façades and expose the naked I. She is the silent therapist, the supportive friend, the proactive healer, and the positive reflection, she is what you need her to be during this process. Throughout the muteness she conveys a paramount message, the dire need for introspection, which can only be achieved once we are still and placid.
We need to incorporate this introspection into our daily routines in hopes to begin positive introspection which heals the mind, body, and soul. Gadgets need to be shut off and put to the side and we have to be allowed serenity with our psyche. I started a mini project with close friends and some family. I asked them a simple question, “what is something you like about yourself?” Some responded instantaneously, many with a list of multiple qualities. I was elated. Others found this question to be very difficult. I don’t think an answer was the difficult part for these individuals, I think the internal act of delving deep and facing oneself was the actual dilemma for varying valid reasons. Let’s work on getting comfortable with ourselves- yield to your reflection, abandon your insecurities, oblige the eyes to absorb and the heart to acquit, in this way you will come upon, and be able to sit with, your inner peace.
Women Editor for THE DEMUREIST. A city gal, born and raised in Chicago. She enjoys reading, writing, and listening to your story. Nazhah is currently working on a novel, she has written essays and poems and enjoys sharing her work at various writers’ collectives.
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