Lightbox: Marina Abramović — The Artist is Present (2010)

Rochelle Hurt

performance: two chairs, two people

[it started over a table, as awkward conversation does. i’ve heard there was a lot of crying in this one. people would crumble, leak, tear their own faces off as the artist sat in silence. everyone got time across from her, a way to feel seen. one night at a dinner party, my Chair served me her best gossip over pork tenderloin: a man in our department had wooed a lesbian in Dance, and they’d married and adopted a child. then the lesbian decided she wanted to be a lesbian again and divorced the man for a woman. it’s just that she made such a big deal about being gay, my Chair said. and then she switched. i think she felt the switch hit her body, my Chair. a betrayal of the either/or life she’d been given. we sat on the same side of the table and she felt close to me and for all she knew i was straight because there were limits to what she could see. i sat in my silence until she politely filled it. weather or traffic. when i quit my job a year later, she cried. nobody knows how hard i try. i can count all the people i’ve cried to on one hand, i thought, and kept my arms crossed so she couldn’t see herself in me. some people wanted to reach a hand out to her, the artist. if you look long enough, eye contact becomes indistinguishable from touch. eventually the table was taken out of the performance and the boundary between bodies slipped off like a tablecloth. i’m just a mirror, she said. when i watch the footage i can still see it — that table like every table i’ve scooted up to in my life. and me, quietly setting the limits like cutlery.]

Marina Abramović — The Artist is Present (2010)


about the author