I suspect that the things I don’t know could fill the universe. This thought both frustrates me and excites me. I love feeling confident that I’ll always have some new concept to explore, but I have extremely mixed emotions when I learn about an artist, for example, at the end of their life, or, worse yet, after they have died.
It’s wonderful to be introduced to a whole new body of work, but that feeling is dampened when I contemplate how much I could have experienced and/or how much the world will be deprived of once that artist is gone. It’s about opportunities missed and possibilities cut short. It’s the part of life that aggravates me the most.
Life is a smorgasbord. All you can eat. But one can only eat so much before becoming sick. We all wind up leaving a lot on the table and/or not sticking around for the new recipes.
This was once again made clear to me when I just happened to turn on NPR a few weeks ago, just at the precise moment when a reporter was reminiscing about her coverage of a performance artist, Marina Abramović, who sat in a chair as thousands of people took turns sitting across from her. She wouldn’t speak or touch them except for this one notable exception, when a former lover/collaborator sat in front of her. It’s really moving to watch.
The reporter said that just the act of sitting in front of the artist as she gazed into their eyes really moved some people to extreme emotions. Some said it was a life-changing experience. Many cried. I totally understand that. I think I would have cried too. It is said that 750,000 people stood in line just to sit in front of this woman.
Most of us go through our lives not really being seen. And after a certain age/weight it seems as though we have been rendered invisible. So having this woman look right at me, rather than through me or past me, would definitely rattle my cage.
I think many of us long to be seen, but we tolerate not being seen because we’re afraid of what people would see. So we live with the feeling that something is missing. If we then find ourselves, for a brief, shining moment, getting exactly what we’ve always wanted, I can understand how that might feel overwhelming.
After hearing about that one performance piece, I had to learn more about Marina Abramović. It turns out that she is 75 years old, and has been doing very unique performance art for the past 50 years. For me, that’s 50 years of performances missed, and relatively few years left for her to create more.
It makes me want to scream.
The Wikipedia page for this artist reads like a gothic novel. What an amazing life she has led. What weird, raw, and thought-provoking art she has produced. This article, which describes much of her work, will sometimes make you blink.
In some performances, she has cut her body, and sat with the agony for hours. She collaborated with another artist, and in that piece they had their mouths attached together, and they breathed in each other’s exhalations for 17 minutes until their lungs filled with carbon dioxide and they both passed out.
In another performance, which lasted for several days, she sat in a hot basement on a pile of cow’s bones, complete with maggots and foul stench, and attempted to scrub the gore off them with a brush. It was a piece about the war in her homeland, the former Yugoslavia.
What other fascinating, mind-blowing things are going on in the world without me knowing about them? What am I missing? What have I overlooked?
There’s never enough time, is there?
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