Artist Profile / Inspiration / Process

The Artists are Present

By Leslie Belloso

The radical contingency of the present. Cezanne was after it: “The world’s instant” that Cezanne wanted to paint, an instant long since passed away, is still thrown at us by his paintings,” says Merleau Ponty. So was Barnett Newman who painted about it and wrote “the sublime as being here and now…it is what dismantles consciousness, what deposes consciousness, it is what consciousness cannot formulate, and even what consciousness forgets in or order to constitute itself.” Marina Abramovic who has made presentness the base of her 40 + year career, explores mindfulness and extreme endurance, drawing from lessons learned during studies with, variously, Tibetan monks, Brazilian shamans and Australian Aboriginal people, among others. “Only” she says “what matters is the present.”


Her “Abramovic Method” includes exercises. Number one is to drink a glass of water hyper-consciously, feeling, smelling and tasting each nano-moment. Number two is to write your name so slowly and without stopping that it takes an hour. Number three is to, yes, slowly count each grain in a quart sized pile of rice—a task that on average takes 16 hours. “I think long durational work is something we need, because life is so fast.”

Uniting these artists is this interest in an intense engagement with the present moment, an ever-unfolding event and event-to-be, at once evident and concealed. In those moments of terror that surface during the task of making art it is comforting to shake off expectations about what can or can’t be done, and to hear Abramovic’s deep voice with the heavy Serbian accent remind me “Only what matters is the present.”


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