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.