In 2010 at the MoMA, Abramović engaged in an extended performance called, “The Artist Is Present”. The work was inspired by her belief that stretching the length of a performance beyond expectations serves to alter our perception of time and foster a deeper engagement in the experience. Seated silently at a wooden table across from an empty chair, she waited as people took turns sitting in the chair and locking eyes with her. Over the course of nearly three months, for eight hours a day, she met the gaze of 1,000 strangers, many of whom were moved to tears.
“Nobody could imagine…that anybody would take time to sit and just engage in mutual gaze with me,” Abramović explained. In fact, the chair was always occupied, and there were continuous lines of people waiting to sit in it. “It was [a] complete surprise…this enormous need of humans to actually have contact.” Excerpt from MoMALearning at www.moma.org.
Eight years in the making and a 50k prize later, author Heather Rose’s “The Museum of Modern Love” novel is coming to the U.S., where Rose’s love for Abramovic first started to develop. That was specifically in 2010, at the MoMA NYC, at Abramovic’s performance residency.
“The Museum of Modern Love” is Rose’s reimagining of Abramović’s 2010 of “The Artist is Present.” Rose was one of 850,000 people who attended Abramovic’s 3-month performance: she was there every day for three weeks and saw others came back several times too. Rose’s book idea had come to her five years before “The Artist is Present,” but so many were the feelings instilled in her by the interactions between Abramovic and the visitors, that it stirred the book plot onto a different direction.
The novel was originally about an artist inspired by Abramovic’s stylistic approach. Now, the book follows several characters who were cathartically transformed by Abramovic’s residency –characters who attended the performance, sat opposite to Abramovic on her famous installation and were deeply moved–much so that it changed their life. The book is half-fiction half-fact, making the novel an unusual synergy between real events and fictional characters.
“I knew when I sat with her that I could no longer do a fictionalized version of her, she had to be herself,” Rose said in an interview with The Guardian. “Because the sitting with her was so strange and so otherworldly, but also so terribly secular, that I thought there’s no way I can ever tell the power of this woman’s story by fictionalizing her.”
According to ABC Australia, the book is launching with an event where it all began: at the atrium in the Museum of Modern Art, with Abramovic herself.