Nathaniel Livingston Photograph


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Hamilton brings an artist and her art

March 1, 2012   

Three hours before Marina Abramovic delivered her inspired and provocative lecture at Wellin Hall yesterday, I had no idea who Marina Abramovic was, what she did, or what she stood for. It occurs to me that you also may not know who this esteemed artist is. So let me enlighten the reader, just briefly.

Marina Abramovic has been described as the "grandmother of performance art." She performs her art because she likes its immaterial nature. Performance captures a moment and brings the performer herself into new states of mind, and expands the experience of art both for the artist and the audience.

Marina took the stage to hundreds of Hamilton students, as well as tons of students and professors from Colgate and a large contingent from The Pratt Institute of Art. She spoke fluidly and with great passion about art and performance. Much of it served as advice for young artists. Styling myself as something of a young artist, in music and poetry, I was quite taken with her wisdom.  

Her opinions affirmed notions of art that I had always felt to be true, deep inside, whether I knew how to voice them or not. Among these notions, however sacrilegious it may be to list them, include art as a solitary practice, one that requires the presence of pain, loss and sorrow. It is not an easy process.  And it does not come from happiness. Marina talked about how art transforms our sadness so that we can learn from our pain — and learn from ourselves. She also had an interesting comment about nature. She said that nature is perfect without us, and art must strive to be human. You cannot take it out of the human context. Art is the humanity in all of us, and it should reflect that humanity — that common thread.

Marina's art indeed strives to do this, and when she showed us videos of performance art, both by herself and other artists, everyone in that crowd felt the power of those performances because we found in them common human truths. I know that at least I did, and in talking with my fellow students, so did we all. It brought about a great meditation on the value of art. I think all my friends and I are bound to switch our majors to art in a few days here ...