Monday, May 12, 2014

the one to whom you reach out

The experience at MoMA would have turned most people mad – sitting still for that length of time, neither speaking nor moving. (There was a concealed hole in her chair, with a chamber pot fitted beneath it, so she didn't have to get up to go to the loo). Abramović was not daydreaming. The whole point of the exercise, she says, was to be fully present, concentrating on connecting with whoever came in to sit down opposite her, and "I never saw so much pain in my life." The huge number of people who wept, she thinks, was brought on by this staged situation in which "there is nowhere to go except in yourself. It was shocking. But how simple it was."

Before the show opened, both Abramović and MoMA half worried that no one would turn up. As the thing took off, celebrities started to drift in to sit opposite her, including, inevitably, James Franco – and then Ulay came. Abramović broke protocol and reached out to grasp his hands across the table. Everyone cheered. "I absolutely didn't expect he'd come to sit. The moment he sat – and everyone got very sentimental about it, because they were projecting their own relationships on to us – but it was so incredibly difficult. It was the only time I broke the rules."