While covering the Jay-Z video shoot at Pace Gallery yesterday, I became better aware of the inspiration for the video in the form of Marina Abramović’s performance piece, “The Artist is Present” at MoMA, which took place in 2010. I did not attend that exhibition, and to be honest, while I learned that she sat in MoMA’s atrium for two months, it was a little difficult to make the connection with Jay-Z’s video concept until I saw some pictures and video footage of Abramović’s performance. As you can see in the picture below, she sat in a simple wood chair at a wooden table with a second chair facing her from the opposite side. Any museum visitor could take that seat, and sit looking at her for any amount of time that they felt comfortable doing so. Each “sitter” was photographed by Marco Anelli, and you can see all of them (and how long they sat) at MoMA’s interactive gallery here.
With this visual reference point, we can now see a little more clearly how Jay-Z was referencing this performance art piece: he had a simple wooden bench on which a visitor would sit, and he would move from his white pedestal down to the bench to rap to each individual, as you can see in the pictures below.
So while it’s somewhat interesting that he’s paying homage to Abramović, and I like the idea that people can get introduced to an artist’s work via a hip hop song, the performance aspect of this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me in regards to the lyrics of the song. Here’s a few segments of the lyrics that relate to art: “I just want a Picasso, in my casa … I wanna Rothko … Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up … Christies with my missy, live at the MoMA … I’m the new Jean Michel, surrounded by Warhols … Spray everything like SAMO … I’m the modern day Pablo …” and so forth. I don’t know if I’m thinking too literally, or too simply, but I would have thought he’d have some of those artists’ work in the video. What do you think?
I mentioned Andres Serrano in the title of the post … why? Because he’s the one sitting on the bench in the 3rd picture, above right, and below left. What’s Serrano up to these days, one might ask? It’s been a long time since he was in the news all of the time for his notorious photos using corpses, feces, and bodily fluids, among other things. I actually just saw a piece of his at VA MoCA (the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art) a few weeks ago. The exhibition was titled “Contemporary Magic: A Tarot Deck Art Project,” in which a wide range of contemporary artists were asked to create a tarot card, which the museum assembled to make an entire deck. Serrano’s contribution was “The Hierophant,” which in some tarot card decks is named “The Pope,” representing the fifth trump or Major Arcana card. The Hierophant is supposed to be the builder of the bridge between deity and humanity. Serrano’s Hierophant, though, looks like Batman … don’t you think?
I actually saw some of Andres Serrano’s work at The Armory Show back in March as well – the pair of photographs below seem like a departure from the Serrano work I’m familiar with, so it was interesting to see. Below left we have “Family of Enrique Rottenberg, Miramar, Havana,” from 2012; below right we have “Juana Rios Rios, Juana de Cubana, Fortune Teller,” also from 2012.
I think my free association rambling has gotten the best of me, as we somehow went from performance art at MoMA to Jay-Z to Andres Serrano to Cuban fortune tellers … oh well, here’s the pictures.