So, I did present myself as a sitter at Marina Abramovic's live installation, although I didn't manage to execute my renegade plan. Before I went, I searched the internet for the "rules of engagement" for public participation, and I couldn't find any. But the constraints are quite specific: (1) No talking (2) Eye contact must be maintained and (3) No objects within the space. This explains the consistency that is established by each sitter. I am ciphering a way to combat this, while following the rules of course. It was a fascinating experience overall. I got in line at 10 am and ended up about 20 people from the front. The first sitter was actually a re-performer from the live retrospective- and sat for a whopping 2.5 hours. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day, as individual after individual got lost in the experience, sitting for hours at a time. Mercifully, there were folks who kept the experience moving, remaining for about 15-30 minutes. Unwittingly, all the potential sitters found themselves performing an endurance presentation, as I didn't sit with the artist until 7:30 pm (note my arrival at 10am). I juxtaposed my own actives (I had lunch, wrote in my notebook, chatted with friends, made new ones, went to the bathroom) with Marina's relative stillness (she never got up from the chair, and only readjusted herself in between sitters)- it was striking parallel. When I did finally reach the chair I witnessed a hallucinatory vision of her face. No lie, her visage was a disembodied object that hovered a few inches from her face-place. Somehow the lighting shifted, and it appeared as if it were changing planes in a sort of semi-chaotic rhythm dictated by her blinking. I can see why people sat for so long- you want to make sure that you are seeing what you are seeing. I thought I might have been caught up in my own expectations (although I definitely wasn't expecting that!). Perhaps I was just seeing things- until I asked one of my line mates about her experience and she corroborated fully. The literature mentions that Marina Abramovic studied hypnosis and with aboriginal groups in Australia. I think she must have learned some techniques that create this experience in a way that harnesses her own personal energy into manifestations that are visible to others.
Finally, I was approached by a number of people after my sitting, asking about my experience and I realized that the fascination came from the fact that I was the only black person in the line (well, there was one other gentleman, but he came much later and didn't get a chance to sit). Something about my blackness must have struck them, even a security guard approached me and said that I might have been one of three black women (total) that have chosen to sit. This tidbit is the seed of something that I will use to transform my own experience, as I am planning to sit with her again. Maybe I can rustle up a group of black people and present a different kind of visual that she can energize with.