The Museum of Modern Love: A #Book Review


courtesy kobo

Following on from The Sitters by Alex Miller that we looked at last week we look at another book on art and creativity.

Although Heather Rose is an Australian author I am not including her in my review of Australian literature as her narrative is not about Australian life but rather that of art, life and love set at the MOMA in New York. The subject of this book is Marina Abramovic’s performance art. This Yugoslavian artist is particularly interested in the relationship between the viewer and the art(ist). Bodily mutilation, nudity and live performances to shock is a form of art that I have never understood but this novel took me well on the road to appreciating it.

Marina is performing her seventy-five days  of ‘the Artist is present” at the New York Gallery where a member of the public sits opposite her looking into her eyes. Both sit perfectly still in silence. Marina’s life is true to her history  and her art exhibitions that she had previously performed. The reader experiences the exhibition through the thoughts and feelings of those in attendance as they reflect on love and life, art and creativity. One of the three main characters is Arky Levin, an ageing composer who is a member of the viewing public. He is struggling with the court order that is preventing him from visiting his terminally ill wife who organised to be cared for in  a nursing home.  The other two main characters that are members of the audience are the recently bereaved art teacher Jane and Brittika, a PhD  student who is writing her thesis on the artist.

These three, along with an omnipotent narrator and the ghost of Marina’s mother watch the performance and the effect that sitting has on the person whilst reflecting on their own lives and art.

You want to be an artist,’ he said, ‘then it takes everything. Everything. You do the other . You get a job. You become a wife. A mother. You contribute to the machine. The machine is always seeking volunteers. But art is not a machine. It does not ask. You ask of it, in your unworthy way, if you might add a little thread…….Art will wake you up. Art will break your heart. There will be glorious days. If you want eternity, you must be fearless.’

This was a beautiful book to read, with real characters – both fictional and nonfictional exploring creativity, and what it is to live. Another book I would highly recommend but I am learning that these books may not be as easy to source as it would seem although it is available from Amazon as a kindle edition.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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8 Responses to The Museum of Modern Love: A #Book Review

  1. Charli Mills says:

    This would not necessarily be a book I think I’d read, but after your review I do want to add it to my list. The quote you pulled is compelling, especially the part about …”Art will wake you up. Art will break your heart. …” I think of the artist’s process as one of discovery and it extends beyond self. Interesting review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting review about what comprises art and the experience of participating in art as artist or viewer. Usually, creating art is a very personal, intimate, almost secretive moment. But exhibiting the finished piece is swaggering and pretentious while viewing it demands attention to someone else’s point of view. The three don’t intersect easily which is why Abramovic is such a revolutionary artist. She puts all three aspects of art on one plane: creator, product, observer. Because we are used to one being private, one being a commodity, and one being selective, we as audience don’t easily know what to make of her art. She exposes people at their core – fraud or dilettante or warmonger or perhaps a rare saint. I admire her dedication but I could never be that honest or allow such confrontation. I am a true coward and she would see that in me were I ever to participate in one of her shows. That’s what her art does: shows the viewer to the viewer.

    I bet I’m not the only person who would like to read this book but I don’t have an e-reader and don’t plan to get one soon. You’ve piqued my interest, Irene.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all that info Sharon. You have summed up her art so succinctly. I certainly have a greater appreciation as to what performance art does but you really hit the nail on the head. I’m sure it would also be available in paperback version. I’m afraid I am going electronic due to space constraints.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Geez…that article. That is…I have no idea what to say about that. I’m not sure if the book is better than that article (I think it is from your review) but not something I think I’d read. I do not understand how that is art. That is… Okay, I’m at a loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a state I doubt you are often in. The book (I loved) gave me an element of understanding and Sharon’s comment added to that. Interwoven with the fictional story the reality became integral. The reader was put right inside the narrative which was as though you were put right inside the art. Fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t mean to be negative. The article just unnerved me. To sit (or stand) there and abuse/violate yourself and allow (no, INVITE) others to do the same… She was “ready to die” by offering a loaded gun and inviting people to “use it on her”? I don’t understand. Perhaps I should have skipped the article and tried the book.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t worry Sarah I agree with you. It is bizarre behaviour which totally unnerves me. I read another book about a performance artist and that left me feeling as though the man needed desperately to see a psychiatrist and the behaviour was sick. The Geiger gallery did the same for me when I looked at the art that he bought for his own enjoyment. This book dispelled for me some of those feelings but even so I think it is to my mind something I could never do.

        Liked by 1 person

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