At 5 p.m. today, Marina Abramovic will leave the chair she has occupied six days a week for the past two and a half months for the last time, as her retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, The Artist Is Present, comes to an end. In yesterday’s New York Times, Holland Cotter weighed in on the show, praising its centerpiece– Ms. Abramovic sitting across from people all day and staring into their eyes– but calling the rest of it, specifically the performance pieces being restaged live at the museum by actors, “a problem.”
“Two elements that originally defined performance art as a medium, unpredictability and ephemerality, were missing,” Mr. Cotter writes. “Without them you get misrepresented history and bad theater.”
The criticism is likely to frustrate Ms. Abramovic, who has been arguing with urgency for the past several years that works of performance art should be continually reperformed instead of being treated as ephemeral, one-time-only affairs. In 2005, she “covered” classic works of performance art, including “Seedbed” by Vito Acconci, as part of a show at the Guggenheim called Seven Easy Pieces. Soon she will open an eponymous Institute for Preservation of Perfromance Art in upstate New York.
Earlier this year she told The Observer that if works of performance art are never seen after their initial staging, they just die. “Many of my colleagues never give permission to re-perform their work because they think it will be changed, and will not be their own work,” she said. “But I really have a different opinion. Even it’s changed … still it’s better that it is re-performed in that changed form than not performed at all and become just kind of dead material in books and bad video recordings. I really believe that we have to give this kind of new life to performance.”