Monday, April 26, 2010

Relational Aesthetics

I took my children, Luca age seven and Jackson age 11 to the MOMA for my field report. We had a wonderful day and it was interesting to see and feel the museum from a child’s point of view. When we arrived there was a long line and both of my children started to complain. We jumped on line, and because of the ten-minute wait we started to socialize with the people all around us. Just waiting on line was a relational experience for us; it appears people enjoy seeing children at museums! This was a good omen, I have never taken my kids to any museum other than The Museum of Natural History and aquariums and zoo’s. I was not sure if my boys and the MOMA were ready to meet each other?

We walked around, looked at many beautiful paintings and finally stumbled upon the Marina Abramovic installation, “The Artist is Present”. Bourriaud states that what the artists produces, “first and foremost, is relations between people and the world, by way of aesthetic objects." This installation was a little world of its own and for me and my children experiencing this piece of art was definitely a “state of encounter.”

The whole atmosphere felt like a cross between a movie set and a church. There were big lights shining on the artist and her partner and cameras were placed at each end of the exhibit. There also was a hushed silence, and a feeling of reverence or group prayer hovering in the air. My children were immediately captivated and my younger son said, “Mom let’s sit down, it’s weird but I am not getting that bored feeling in my stomach."

So we sat down and experienced Marina Abramovic in a beautiful flowing red dress sitting across from a young woman in a jean skirt and white sneakers. Abramovic and the woman intently looked into each other’s faces and the experience was silent and beautiful. Most of the people watching in the audience quietly chatted with each other and it was so invigorating to sit and watch the artist and her subject interact. The intimacy between the two women was spellbinding and it felt refreshing to witness this true human connection without any filters. I felt like I had a social bond with the artist and her subject and I also felt like I was sharing what it means to be human with my children and the other spectators.

Afterwards, I had a conversation with my children about what the work meant. For me, it was like a metaphor for how an artist works and what it means to “put yourself into your work”. Also, it was a truly relational experience, something akin to a collective group worship, where every spectator is fiercely engaged in the process of learning about themselves and their experience in the world. Thank you Marina Abramovic!

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