What is Art? Marina Abramovic and Generator

Mary E. Martin
Oct 26, 2014 8:03PM

Conceptual art/performance art? Abramovic at Sean

This is in response to an article by Ben Davis which I found on artnetnews about Marina Abramovic’s latest show Generator, I’ve not been able to attend and so my commentary must be limited. However I know someone who attended her show at MoMA and was very powerfully affected.  

To me, conceptual art should convey a concept or idea to me. How the artist decides on that concept and its presentation is up to him or her. I’m quite prepared to acknowledge that many ideas may be presented and that the many interpretations of them can vary wildly.

 I can imagine myself in the circumstances described in the article. Obviously the artist  was intent on provoking certain reactions in her audience. Mine would at the worst be claustrophobia and at best a nagging sense of insecurity because I couldn’t see. Obviously, the artist wants to engage or involve her audience. But to what end or purpose?

Here we could add another question—Does the art [and our ability to judge i] lie in the artist or in members of the audience [through their response or reaction]? Or both? Does that depend on who shows up at the gallery and he or she reacts? If this is so, the viewer is a contributor to the work of art. Not so surprising! Physicists say  that objects change when they are observed. Those who love the arts say sometimes they are changed by the art.

But as a bare minimum she does pose [as all conceptual artists should] that perennial question—What is art? 

Mary E. Martin