THE ARTIST IS HUMBLY PRESENT
LISA LEVY / CHRISTOPHER STOUT GALLERY
“Ego and pretense have seriously fucked with the quality, nature, and meaning of contemporary art. I’m also tired of the bullshit, trendy dialogue about how the art world is driven by rich collectors who want shiny objects and don’t care about meaningful work. But mostly, I think it will be weirdly fun to be naked in public.”
Nowadays, the art market calls for work that is highly produced and easy to digest, which I feel distracts from artists making the work that they and their viewers will find most emotionally satisfying and connected to.
A recent report from Artnet News by Henri Neuendorf says it best: Gerhard Richter, the most expensive living artist in Europe, criticized the art market and denounced the hype surrounding contemporary artists, including himself, as a “cult of personality.” Speaking to the German weekly Die Zeit, the 83-year-old painter said the exorbitant prices his artworks achieve at auction were proof of how “insanely the art market has developed,” and how the prices have nothing to do with the work.
Referencing Marina Abramović´’s seminal 2010 performance at MoMA, “The Artist Is Present” as a symbol of contemporary art world pretense, I recreated my own version of Marina Abramović´’s 2010 performance at the MoMA, “The Artist is Present” as “The Artist Is Humbly Present.”
In contrast to Abramović´’s own proud, robed presentation of self, I sat completely naked and silent on a toilet. Across from me was another toilet, which visitors could sit on to face me. That toilet was presented lid closed with visitors responding to my performance however they wished, with one exception—no touching.
The experience was ultimately satisfying. It actually soothed my anger at art world pretension. The anger faded and it doesn’t irk me the same way. What was interesting was finding that I was a blank screen for visitors. Each person had their own way of interacting and responding to me, which fascinated me and taught me a lot about the range of human nature, even at such a specific event.