Critical Trilogy

a critic's millennial journey

Abramovic, Hatry & the New Birth

"Out of the Box" by Heide Hatry, currently in "Woman in the 21st Century: Margaret Fuller and the Sacred Marriage" at Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge

Marina Abramovic, November 30, 1946, Belgrade

Marina Abramovic’s performances are so cosmologically well-timed, you would think she had an astrologer giving her dates.  This fall marks the eight-year cycle of her retrograde Venus (natal chart is at left) rising again in Scorpio, which ends the cycle began with her November 2002 The House with an Ocean View at Sean Kelly Gallery.

She finished up this eight year cycle with Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present at MoMA, which has made her an international celebrity, a hot box office attraction and survivor of the longest running performance in history.  Moreover, her performance has brought the institution up to technological speed, with live feeds available on the Internet and instant footage available of the transformation of audience into participant.

The End of an Era

"The Artist is Present" closing; May 31, 2010 at MoMA, 5:30 PM, EST, NYC

is marked by the chart of the performance close, along with a winding down of Neptune crossing the performer’s Aquarian Moon — as reflected in the title of her 2002 performance.   Here the ocean becomes the “oceanic” as Chiron made the passage into Pisces during the course of Abramovic’s duration in the plain chair before the bright lights of the MoMA atrium.

Here is what the astrology musings on beliefnet.com say about Chiron in Pisces.

Under the Pisces influence we often throw ourselves to the winds, eagerly willing to sacrifice our individual pain for the bliss of Universal consciousness.  This urge for self-sacrifice can, at its worst, exalt the concept of martyrdom and convert it to victimhood.  The challenge is to find the rapture of transcendence and surrender without losing ourselves in the process.

The personal cresting of the Aquarian Wave (Neptune separating from Abramovic’s Moon) which presents this challenge is projected through performance (Mars in Leo on the MC) at the apex of a boomerang extending from the Midheaven to the 4th house where personal myths are made.  Mars in Leo applying to an opposition to Neptune (within a degree orb of the US Moon at 27 Aquarius) is the apex of a yod formed by the Moon at 26 Capricorn applying to a sextile of Jupiter in tail end of Pisces.  Significantly, this is a separating conjunction  to Marina’s eighth house Moon (21 degrees Aquarius) that trines Uranus in Gemini.

What this translates into is the transformation of Abramovic’s intimate (eighth house) dialogue with the public (Moon in Aquarius) instantaneously (Uranus) into Cyberspace via the global (11th house) technology of the Internet.  This marriage of Heaven and Earth sets a new technological standard for performance art, which Mina Cheon’s Shamanism and Cyberspace brings into a dialectic notably missing from The Artist is Present.

For the course of her performance career, Marina has risked her life (Saturn conjunct Pluto on the cusp of the 1sr/2nd house) to call up the dark feminine (Saturn/Pluto squaring her Jupiter/Venus in Scorpio) to her audiences (Moon in Aquarius filling in a T-Square).

As I see it, her MoMA performance was not simply a bid to fulfill her ambition ( Sagittarius Sun and Mars in the 5th house of fame) to become the ubiquitous Givenchy-clad celebrity of the moment.   On a mythical level, it was a public surrender to the collective consciousness to which she now belongs, meaning her life is now a Greek tragedy where the archetype of the dark feminine will be given free play.

With no planets in earth signs or houses, it is dubious Abramovic can prevent this archetype from possessing her.  Once, her teaching served this purpose, but it is all too likely that the performer’s new diva status will preclude the humility required for teaching students about self-abnegation.  The hunger for love is like a crater in her birth chart (Venus in its fall in Scorpio squaring Pluto/Saturn).  How can she expect it to find in a single person when she now has a 24/7 audience in to accommodate?  She has taken performance to the upper stratosphere in the 21st century and — in marked contrast to the immobility of her actual performance — the leap out of the art world and into the celebrity stratosphere was the risk of her life.

Americans in particular, need to confront the dark face of the feminine (Kali) to make the paradigm leap into the sacred marriage of the opposites.  Marina Abramovic brings this face into form through providing a new experience of  celebrity as global projection.  Her assuming her celebrity role in her adopted country is reflected by her First House Saturn (8 degrees Leo) on the US north node.

I personally wasn’t interested in the retrospective, as I had seen most of the material before, and was repelled by the vampire persona Marina was projecting in the museum atrium, which Holland Carter effectively described in his May 31 New York Times review:  700 Hour Silent Opera Reaches Finale at MoMA

One of her lifelong heroes is the opera singer Maria Callas, to whom she can bear a striking physical resemblance. Callas was a disciplined, risk-oriented musician, made vulnerable by a voice that began to disintegrate early. Increasingly, as she aged, every performance became an ordeal, an invitation to failure. Her willingness to face failure became the prevailing drama of her life. It was a drama of survival, and her fans had a part in it: she needed them to need her, so they did.

That’s that classic diva dynamic. And what we’re seeing in the MoMA atrium is basically a 700-hour silent opera. Ms. Abramovic, with her extravagant costume, her bent shoulders and her mournful gaze, is the prima donna. Visitors are cast as rapt audience, commenting chorus, supporting soloists. Unpredictability is in the air: Will she make it through the day? Will she faint from pain? Will she cancel at the last minute?

I declared 2004 as the “Year of Marina Abramovic” in the Hartford Courant and wrote several articles about a mythology detected within her art which was balanced by her commitment to teaching, which had been her financial support and focus at the time.  Our initial meeting was in the coatroom of the Japan Society, before the 2003 AICA Awards, where we gave her a prize for The House with an Ocean View.  And yes, I participated, with a certain dread, in the performance artist’s inevitable trajectory to becoming a global celebrity.  The  re-creation of her performance on Sex and the City (perhaps that is where she got the idea of re-staging performances?) resulted in my successful pitch to The Hartford Courant, propelling my own rise from local to national critic.

Heide Hatry, whom I curated into Black Madonna and now Woman in the 21st Century, was intent on delivering Marina a rat, as a form of dialogue based on one of the Serbian artist’s videotaped performances.  As Heide is connected with the unconscious as few artists truly are,  I asked her to write to me about her experience, thinking perhaps it might inspire new insights about Marina’s performance coming at the end of an era.

What immediately struck me is how obsessed Hatry as performer/audience is with time.  Could this performance of Marina, coming under the Saturn opposed Uranus, be marking the once ephemeral medium with a new cosmological significance: marking time?

Below is the image Heide sent me, along with the text:

Heide Hatry making a connection with a friend at MoMA while waiting to make a connection to Marina Abramovic

May 26, 2010; 8:46 PM

Dearest Lisa:

This is the  only useful image so far, but I might be able to get better ones tomorrow, when I will try to go at 6am,

I didn’t get to sit with Marina because first 7 people cut the line and the 9th person sat there until the end.

Whatever, I had a splendid time with T., who wrote this while we were sitting:

(Here I am in line at Marina.  It is 11:06 am)

I just got a call from my friend Heide . She’s in line ahead of me so now I am 20 people ahead. She has been here since 9:00 and describes the waiting process as somewhat of a supermarket sweepstakes —- when they open the door into the area everyone runs in and those who were behind can leap in front. She has a bad knee so she can’t run. She brought a friend with her to run for her.

She is now 27th in line and has estimated that if everyone sits for ten minutes, she might make it. I guess I’m 30– two friends of hers before me. But then I may easily be thrown out of line since , technically I have now cut ahead, hence a bum.

I could claim celebrity status or wear a mask of someone who is and jump to the front of the line. I thought of writing something on my neck in magic marker like:” i am a celebrity but you just don’t recognize me.”

My friend Janet kindly sent me a photo of Sharon Stone sitting with ma because she thinks I resemble her.  Perhaps that might work .

I doubt I’ll get to sit today . My crabby side about this performance has returned even though some of you convinced me to think about it otherwise. The photo page does give the piece a collective gravitas that is moving but…

Here we are in line, waiting. Other people’s level of absorption is our enemy.

There are people who were here at 5 am and 6 am.

Everything about this makes me uncomfortable which is why I finally decided to do it.? We shall see if I get to and what indeed I will  have to report.

Now I have to pee.

What to do!?!

T.

So we will try it tomorrow again – together and if it doesn’t work, we are fine too.

Ciao bella and i will report more later

Yours Heide

May 30, 2010; 12:06 PM

Dearest Lisa,

I made it on Thursday and it was absolutely worth it.

But the whole experience was very strange:

I arrived at 5.32 am

3 people were in front of me

When we got in the museum at 9.30, there were 12 VIPs waiting in line already.

Because we all had agreed outside that we will insist in the line (there were already unpleasant fights outside) I went in front of the line and told the security woman, (same woman as yesterday) that we will not accept this procedure. She yelled at me to go back to my spot and I went back and I forced the 3 people who were originally ahead  of me to come with me to the front.

The woman became angrier but finally agreed and asked the people who hadn’t waited for hours to get in the back of the line. (We let the performers, who where performing over the last 3 months on the 6th floor, get ahead of us, but only because they promised to not sit long.)

The first woman in the row (who had waited even longer than me) didn’t make a clear statement on how long she intended to sit, which sounded like she would try to sit through, so I tried to reason with her, that the situation has changed and that I think it is very selfish to sit long – ( 4 days before the show closes) I think I couldn’t convince her and was at a certain point sure that she was going to sit until the end, but then something very unexpected happened: Marina lowered her head, as she usually does when somebody got up. And stayed that way for about 2 minutes.

Because the woman didn’t leave – and it was really obvious, that she intended that to happen – Marina lifted her arm. In that moment 4 guards jumped into the square and removed her.

It was terrible, like if she was a criminal.

Then somebody had told the responsible people that I had a dead rat in my purse, just before it was my turn, a guy came towards me and said: is it true that you have a dead rat in your purse? I said yes. Then they acted as if that was a bomb. Asked me to leave the line and the museum and not come back. I fought for about 15 minutes and  explained that I didn’t want to scare Marina or behave disrespectful, but that I rather thought she would be happy to receive this gift from me.

In any case. They asked me to dispose the rat and then they let me get back – very nervous though, that I would have a different terrible attack in my mind.

I have to say that it helped a lot that this woman in front of me was removed. If I hadn’t seen that they do that, I would have probably acted in a different way, and I was very happy that they didn’t let me run into an unpleasant situation like that.

And then the sitting, it was actually like talking to her. I told her all the things I always wanted to tell her and felt understood. She wasn’t dead, she actually was present, something I didn’t feel before when I looked from outside.

and she recognized me and I felt welcome and it felt as if she liked it as well.

And then the same thing happened again: the third woman, in line from yesterday, sat today until the end.

I couldn’t believe, that the woman, after having had the very same  experience a day earlier, would dare to act that way. I am disturbed by this behavior.

Of course everybody wanted to sit as long as they felt, but how could you possibly  forget about all these people?

If I was a hard core twitterer or interested in these kind of things I would create a new list of selfish people in the last week, with the amount of minutes they sat….

The woman who was in front of me and removed from the chair wrote about her experience:

Really interesting:

http://nancylicious.com/private/641906188/tumblr_l35jjbT1AS1qzqgsq

This is my comment for her, #1

Hi #1,

This is # 4, the German with my “German accent authoritative”

Your honesty is touching (my stupidity somehow too). Yes, I noticed your strange behavior, your inability to make a straight forward statement of how long you were going to sit.

(For other readers: I was in line with #1 the day before, we both didn’t get to sit, because the woman in the black dress, (#3 in line, not calculated the VIPs who got in front of the line) sat with Marina all day until the end. I had asked her as well how long she was going to sit, because I only wanted to wait in line if I had an actual chance, and she told me that she wouldn’t sit for too long)

I wondered why you were not able to be straight forward. Was it because you come from a background, where you don’t believe in that? You explained that you might loose track of time (my response: I think you will be able to tell the difference of 15 minutes and 5 hours,) and that you couldn’t promise me to be able to sit because you wouldn’t know how long the VIPs would stay,…

I realized that you felt very uncomfortable being forced to talk about your planned sitting time again and again, but I didn’t want to risk, that you might have not understood that I thought the behavior of the woman in the black dress was unacceptable. (We are talking about the last week of the show! If it was very important for somebody to sit longer, that person should have done it, when the lines were not that crazy.) I thought the longing of other people in line to have that experience as well, would prevent a human feeling person to sit for a long period of time.

Marina: “If somebody’s sitting there all day, he’s responsible for his conduct, which is depriving other people of the experience. But he has to have his own social consciousness about it, and in the end it’s his decision.”

Even she changed her mind, because of people like you.

I have to say that I am deeply disappointed to read your confession and don’t understand why you wouldn’t use this special opportunity in line and talk about what you really thought? Do you always “try to get past the point of comfort”?

And I suddenly understood why you refused to let the performance artist go ahead of you, (performer on the 6th floor for 3 months) who had promised to stay only for 3 minutes (ok, it turned into 10, but of course you can’t check the time when you are sitting and that didn’t make any difference for us, in front of the line anyway.) You knew that you were lying and figured if he did too, you might be not be able to sit at all.

I couldn’t believe that after we (you, me and #9?) had the experience a day earlier, anybody could possibly not try to hurry up. I don’t know if you stayed, but # 9? sat until the end of the day.

Do you remember what I thought about the people who were doing this? You probably suppressed it and it’s fine, after all, isn’t your experience more important than that from others?

I am not sure weather I should post it on her blog.

I am very happy that I had the experience and I am happy that I didn’t sit (even at the beginning) for the whole day (I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to do that if many people waited, but anyway)

I like Marina’s believe in human behavior and I also like it, that she changes the rules, when she realizes that she was wrong. I guess that’s one thing I love about her: she is so present.

Everybody who took photos of me didn’t sent them, sorry so there is nothing but the one I had sent you,

But there is a video, where we stand in line and I am wearing my labcoat (because it is cold outside i the very early morning in front of the MOMA:  http://nancylicious.com/

Just scroll down until you see the video.

Ok I have to run,

ciao bella

and hopefully talk to you soon

yours heide

"Out of the Box" by Heide Hatry in "Woman in the 21st Century: Margaret Fuller and the Sacred Marriage" at Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge

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June 2, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Hi #4! (Lisa – can you please pass this comment onto Heide?)

    I found this entry through the wonders of the internet. It was very interesting to read your unpublished comment (published here). I’m grateful I did.

    First of all, I want to thank you for keeping the integrity of the line to the best of your ability. I really admired your confidence in a very ambiguous situation and am grateful that in doing so, you were one of many people who gifted me the experience of sitting with marina. I have not forgotten that and don’t know what would have happened without you.

    It is very interesting to hear your account here (just as perhaps, you found reading mine) and while I understand that my intentions will not necessarily change anyone’s understanding of the events in that moment, now, or ever, please know that I DID NOT have any intention of sitting all day.

    The reason why I was so quiet and tentative in line was because I was very very very nervous and was afraid that as things got more chaotic that I would have greater difficulty staying present with Marina and then would sit even longer than I had in order to fully participate in the piece. I was afraid that the more stories I heard the more baggage I would carry with me into the square and the harder it would be for me to focus.

    I wanted to get past the point of comfort in the chair without regard to time (if it happened in the first 5 minutes all the better for EVERYONE) because I wanted to be brave enough not just want to run away as soon as an emotion or sensation appeared while I was sitting that I might not want to confront / be present to. I apologize if that was not clear in my blogpost.

    I am not sure if this was evident to you, but I regard myself as very self conscious and have stage fright. I actually don’t like it when a lot of people look at me (particularly if they are people I know) so these were things I knew I would have to confront in participating in this piece. The behavior you picked up in line was probably me dealing with this and attempting to focus.

    For what its worth: I woke up at 3:54 am on Friday (without an alarm) and purposefully wrote about the experience to stop myself from getting back in line. I wanted to share my experience with those would could not wait and those who would be waiting to sit. I realize that this choice did not have a direct impact on your experience on Thursday but I did want to know that my intentions were not egotistical and apologize to you if they came across as such. I just felt this would be too much to explain to everyone in line who asked.

    I was very upset when someone told me you were taken away because of the rat and am very glad you still got to sit.

    also, webcam pic of you:
    http://marinaabramovicwebcam.tumblr.com/post/637994177/may-27-2010-12-30pm-flickr-portrait

    flickr portraits are up.

    Would have wanted to contact you under better circumstances since i had so much respect for you from the experience.

    Nevertheless with love,
    Nancy

    Comment by nancylicious | June 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you for this comment! As I wrote in my post, my critical understanding is that Marina Abramovic delivers the dark feminine (Kali) to her audiences, creating a forum for healing the deep wounds surrounding this repressed energy. Your dialogue with Heide reveals a collective healing of the wound. I appreciate your courage to do so publicly in the space of this blog and please keep me posted on your future performances. Lisa

      Comment by Lisa Paul Streitfeld | June 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. sorry, there are a few grammar mistakes and words missing from the above comment. i hope it all still makes sense.

    Comment by nancylicious | June 2, 2010 | Reply

    • it is perfect! lisa

      Comment by Lisa Paul Streitfeld | June 4, 2010 | Reply

  3. Fascinating post and website. As a scholar currently working on Marina, as well as yogini, I find your critical angle very interesting and somewhat familiar. Yet what brought me here was the astrological take. It seems a few highly competent astrologers sat with Marina. I must ask, what is the source of the birthtime you are using that gives Cancer rising? It does make good sense, as the 5th house is associated with theatre and places of entertainment, while the 10th is the house of fame.

    Also, your event chart for the end of the performance is for the museum, which closed at 5:30. The performance ended at 4:20. While I agree Marina embodies elements of the dark goddess, during the final days, the chatter around the square was decidedly maternal (Cancerian).

    Notably, her performance was the longest *museum* performance. The longest durational performances are by her friend Tehching Hsieh.

    Comment by Research Scholar | August 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you for this post! I am so glad to know that Marina is attracting a spiritual scholar! The birth time is from Marina herself and I analyzed I was writing about her for several outlets, predicting in print that 2005 would be “The Year of Marina Abramovic.” It looks like I was a few years ahead of reality! I didn’t participate in this performance as I already had my transformative experience with her. What other artist could I interpret via the Kundalini at both ends of the spectrum: the avant garde journal and daily newspaper?! But as I got to write about her through her teaching, I also foresaw, with a certain dread, the celebrity orbit she was entering. It will be interesting to see what happens during her Venus return this year, after its retrograde motion. Her heavily aspected retrograde Venus is the Key to unlocking her art: I find her work with the pentagram fascinating and overlooked by western scholars. Best of luck with your research and keep in touch!

      Comment by Lisa Paul Streitfeld | August 19, 2010 | Reply


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