There are videos—Super 8 films originally, I’d guess—of Abramovic and her then partner, Ulay, slamming into each other. Or leaning against each other separated by a sheet of glass. I wonder if Elizabeth Streb, the choreographer who puts her dancers through the most athletic and dangerous of paces, was influenced by this work. I love Streb’s troup, but again I’m oddly unmoved by the Abramovic performances.
There’s more, including a recreation of the raised living quarters built for Abramovic in the Sean Kelly Gallery some years back. You know--the one with knife blades for ladder rungs? The one Carrie goes to see in Sex and the City? Abramovic lived in/on it for a month. There’s a video of the performance. And you think your studio apartment is cramped? At least you have privacy. I walked into the gallery when she was performing the piece, but I was seized with the urge to bolt, which I did.
When I walk into the room with the woman pinned to the wall about 20 feet off the floor, I stop. My heartrate increases. OK, phew, she’s supported by a bicycle seat and there are pegs for her feet. What? I’m relieved? She's high on a wall, arms outstretched like the Vitruvian man in a tense tango with gravity. She’s caught in a headlight of massive proportions, but if you look at her, she makes eye contact with you. This has to be excruciating and I’m party to it? I bolt.
Back in the atrium Abramovic is still sitting in that dress. It’s the perfect color. What she and her performers are doing is bloody hard work. Masochistic, perhaps. Introspective, perhaps. But bloody hard nonetheless.