Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jesus as Performance Artist...???

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Yes.  I know - this sounds kinda weird...  but I have been switched on to performance art, recently, after viewing a performance by Marina Abramovic, and learning more about her solo work, as well as her collaborations with German artist, Ulay.

Performance art is something I have never previously understood.  My first experience of it was when a friend and I visited the NSW Art Gallery, and attended a performance art event that just happened to be on.  I think we were all of 18 or 19 years old at the time.  We didn't know what to make of the bizarre behaviour of the performer.  It was confronting, to say the least!  Over the years I have seen occasional performance art pieces, but did not find the artform accessible.  The piece by Abramovic, linked to above, moved me to tears - in fact, I was a wreck!  I shared it with a good friend, and she had the same reaction.  Powerful stuff!

In the performance The Artist is Present, Abramovic is seated at a table, opposite a vacant chair.  She is there to share one minute of silent connection, with each stranger who comes and sits before her.  It is fascinating to watch the reactions of the strangers who come... some seem intrigued, puzzled, some obviously finding the experience of looking intently into the eyes of a stranger very confronting.  It forces us to examine both our need for human connection, and the ways we shield ourselves from it.  Of course, what brought both me and my friend undone, was when the person who sat before Marina was not a stranger, but Ulay - her former partner, with whom she also created a number of very intimate performance works; someone with whom she had shared a very significant part of her life, and some  brutally honest explorations of their shared humanity - and who she had evidently not seen, or had contact with, for many years.  The silent interaction between the two is both beautiful to watch, and heart-rending.  And, of course, it is no longer "just art" - it is life.

In a way that no craft of words could possibly do - this moved me to my core.  And I think there is something very profound in this.  I could explain my ideas about human relationships - they may or may not be right, or useful insights.  They may move some people, as they resonate with their own experiences.  However words are only as strong as the life they reflect;  and there really is no message more powerful than a life honestly lived.

And... more and more, I am coming to see "The Way" of Jesus as exactly this.  Not an exchange of ideas.  Not an ideology (God knows the world has more than enough of those already!) But love, lived out.  Love embodied.  Jesus really did seem to dance around most questions of "theology", choosing instead to live out God's presence on earth in his every action.  And, face it, no written code or philosophy is ever going to contain all of love.  But our lives?  Maybe, just maybe, together, they can!

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