PRINT May 2010


Vito Acconci, Theme Song, 1973, still from a black-and-white video, 33 minutes.

The audience is like a dog. They can feel immediately that you are afraid, that you are insecure, that you’re not in the right state of mind—and they just leave. . . .
—Marina Abramović

I think the twenty-first century will hopefully be more guided by “how” questions—how am I a product or how am I related to these people here? . . . And what is the ethics implied by this?
—Tino Sehgal

IN 1973, VITO ACCONCI CROONED about his desperate need for an audience. For Theme Song, the artist taped himself singing banal pop entreaties into a video camera, in close-up and prone on the floor, acknowledging all the while his failure to seduce the viewer amid the infinite regress of telepresence and absence: “I know I’m only kidding myself. . . . You’re not here.” This unsated desire—induced at the very moment that television was flooding domestic space in an early wave of intimate virtuality—was characteristic of Acconci’s pioneering performances and their exploration of changing performer-audience relations. Theme Song played with proximity: “I can feel your body right next to me.” Following Piece, 1969, was more extreme; Acconci secretly followed—or stalked—a random passerby on the street until he or she entered a private space.

Such longing also seems to characterize today’s surprising explosion of “live” art. For a few extraordinary weeks in greater New York this spring, several agents of these events were in town and on duty at the same time. Tino Sehgal could be spotted milling through the crowds he had generated with his intervention in the emptied Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, titled This Progress, 2006; Marina Abramović made good on her physical pledge to the Museum of Modern Art during her retrospective “The Artist Is Present”; Tania Bruguera was offering several performance works “On the Political Imaginary” at the Neuberger Museum of Art; and Joan Jonas reinterpreted her “video performance” Mirage, 1976/2005, for MoMA’s “Performance Exhibition Series.” Although Sehgal emerges as the most attuned to the reception theories of our moment, the magisterial Abramović also scores for insisting on the stubborn lure of presence that vibrates beneath all live art,¹ whether we call it performance, body art, relational aesthetics, behavior art (Bruguera’s term), or constructed situations (Sehgal’s).

IT ONCE SEEMED we had to go back to the days of ancient rituals to find such a proliferation of public performance. Then, in addition to the anointed shamans and intercessors, we would surely find the stoic virgins, the frightened initiates, the drum beaters, the scapegoats, and the “passive” onlookers—all of whom would have suddenly become part of the display, their collective belief simultaneously summoned and produced by the convocation. Yet in the provocative text Homo Ludens (1938), historian Johan Huizinga already refused to locate such events solely in “ancient” or “primitive” times, connecting Greek mysteries to African initiations to visits from Santa Claus; in the 1950s, philosopher J. L. Austin contributed his own bracing theory of speech acts, utterances whose conventional public performance (such as the “I do” in a wedding ceremony) have the capacity to “do things with words,” becoming what he usefully designated “performatives.²

Huizinga described performativity avant la lettre as a kind of consensual playacting: “The play-mood is labile in its very nature. At any moment ‘ordinary life’ may reassert its rights either by an impact from without . . . or else from within, by a collapse of the play spirit, a sobering, a disenchantment.” To fend off such collapses, we invoke special temporal and spatial frames: “Consecrations, sacrifices, sacred dances and contests, performances, mysteries . . . [all have] a festal nature.” And (as in the art world) these frames allow ordinary life to be put “at a standstill,” but always in a willing and collective suspension of disbelief: “Whether one is sorcerer or sorcerized one is always knower and dupe at once.”³

What both Austin and Huizinga capture is the hominid desire to enter fully into these social frames—in order to do things with words (as well as with movements and images). And such anthropological and philosophical conceits can be put to use in the present, to help us try to understand our turn toward theatricality in contemporary art. This secularized, theatrical turn has two sides. If we continue to invoke Brechtian alienation effects on one, our willing entry into Huizingan play stands on the other. That is to say, we demand the reflexive awareness that earlier artists such as Acconci produced around and within their events. But we are now also invited to displace the authoritative structure of artwork and artist in favor of our own embodied “experience”—a word that often challenges received knowledge but doesn’t always insist on critical reflection. Jacques Rancière sought to heal this divide between intellectual critique and the “magic power of theatrical action,” a split personified as “Brecht/Artaud” in his 2004 construction of “the emancipated spectator,” published in these pages in 2007 and still more utopian than one might wish.⁴ In fact, the current aesthetics of experience has yet to work out the balance between curatorial or artistic scripting and the ethics of public participation—between knowing and being duped. It is this axis I propose to put into question here.

Marina Abramović, Seven Easy Pieces, 2005. Performance view, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, November 11, 2005. Abramović performing Valie Export’s Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969/2001. Photo: Kathryn Carr.

Knowers and dupes proliferate in the performative situations offered today; we are positioned as such, in different proportions, by Sehgal and Abramović, Bruguera and Jonas. Abramović, for one, has been engaged for some time in a paradoxical project that posits performance art both as a formal, repeatable repertoire (Bach is one of her favorite analogies) and as the sole possession of singular bodies. These competing notions shaped her Seven Easy Pieces at the Guggenheim in 2005 (the title itself recalling Bach’s compositions). The suite of reperformances of “seminal” works by different artists from the late ’60s and ’70s ranged from Acconci’s (literally seminal) Seedbed, 1972, to Valie Export’s (potentially seminal) Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969/2001. But if Abramović’s dramatic offer to “re”-perform these now-canonical works rendered them scripts in a repertoire, transferable from one performer to another, the opposite claim for authentic presence has become the all-consuming engine of her 2010 MoMA project. Although this exhibition’s titular assertion is “The Artist Is Present,” there is nonetheless a compromise whose unspoken subtitle would be “Except When She Isn’t.”

Like Sehgal (and the dance-oriented artists of his generation such as Catherine Sullivan), Abramović and the curatorial team at MoMA now assert the need for the extensive training of apprentices who will carry on (her) works. Abramović can’t do it all! More to the point, how could MoMA possibly restage the famous collaborative doorway piece Imponderabilia, created in the late ’70s by Abramović and her partner Ulay (the German performance artist Uwe Laysiepen), who formed a seemingly singular and indivisible unit at the time?⁵ Rather than dispersing authorship, the very structure of the retrospective requires pulling Imponderabilia back into ego—under the individual sign of Abramović—thereby prizing it from the ego-neutralizing team that once constituted its integral meaning. The egos of the hired performers at MoMA are no longer part of the question; gender has also been remapped so that the fleshy passage can be constituted by two men or two women. The work presented manifestly cannot be the “same” as the “original,” thereby vitiating the more positivist fantasies of art history—not to mention the concrete “looking back” proposed by the museum retrospective. Clever or craven, MoMA’s strategy seems to be confused as to exactly what kind of retrospective gaze it intends. Perhaps it just wants to stake some ground on an apparently vanishing territory—if not the first, it will at least be the biggest in occupying that terrain.

Marina Abramović and Ulay, Imponderabilia, 1977. Performance footage.

Abramović’s tangled public negotiations with history and the museum are characteristic of earlier European “social sculptors” (to take Joseph Beuys’s felicitous phrase). The work of Bruguera and Jonas has a similarly improvisatory feel, as if one can just do things with bodies and events—as site, as dance, as theater, as installation, as video, as provocation—without the scrupulous system seemingly required for Sehgal’s more cerebral, impeccably theorized situations. Indeed, the aforementioned practices all lie in stark contrast to Sehgal’s exquisitely careful management of the discourse about his work, marking his as the most intellectual approach within this experiential turn. To be sure, performance art and body art of the ’70s were themselves more systematically theorized than their forebears in Fluxus and Happenings (and the later Happenings debatably more scripted than the earliest chaotic events). Performance art meant, in part, refusing the fetish of the prop or object prevalent in Happenings (some artists had begun to call this the Oldenburg effect: hastily produced plasters from The Store, 1961–62, that all too quickly became expensive collectibles). But if these ’70s artists refused to fetishize the prop, they did not refuse what became the fetish of the document. Central to the problem and paradox of Abramović’s work is her reliance on these documents—a dependence that Sehgal overtly critiques by attempting to eliminate documentation from the circuit that still manages to produce, market, and collect his work. (This is utopian and irritatingly self-righteous to many, since documentation of Sehgal’s situations is widely available on the Web: on blogs, in reviews, on museum websites, and in Flickr photos. Crucially, however, neither photos nor videos are “authorized” by Sehgal or sold to support his productions. It is the privilege of staging the situation itself that is sold, a kind of market miracle that Abramović, for one, has openly envied.⁶)

Sehgal relies on teams of what he calls “interpreters” (“performers” would imply a set script, “collaborators” an untrammeled agency), producing his situations within an institutional system. He does an elegant postmodern end run around the problems of any critique being easily co-opted by the museum and the market: He has the work aggressively acknowledge them both. Neither unprecedented (Andrea Fraser is the extraordinary magus of this maneuver) nor even surprising anymore, Sehgal’s foregrounding of the market is nonetheless satisfyingly hilarious, performed in simple scripts (This Is So Contemporary, 2004, requires museum guards to sing the work’s title and owner) or worked out with participants (This Is Exchange, 2003, requires museum staff to discuss market exchange with visitors, who then get a discount on their entry fees). And specific choreography is usually a component of his pieces, although it might not be visible as such. In Sehgal’s recent Guggenheim “situation,” the performers embracing in The Kiss, 2002, were clearly following close physical instructions down in the rotunda, while on the ramp This Progress was open to demotic speech and everyday movement, masking artifice with a quotidian contingency.

Valie Export, Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969/2001, black-and-white photograph mounted on aluminum, 65 x 48".

Moving through Sehgal’s This Progress multiple times at the Guggenheim gave me a sense of which parameters were fixed and which fluid. The interpreters here were purposefully grouped by age: As you began your ascent up the ramp, a member of the first set, a child, approached to introduce himself or herself and announce, “This is a piece by Tino Sehgal, would you like to follow me?” If the answer was affirmative, he or she then asked, “What is progress?” Depending on your (guided but unscripted) answer, the summary was then more or less accurately conveyed to the next interpreter, a member of a set of teenagers, who energetically offered his or her own views. The first element of choreography to become explicit was the next handoff—from the teenager to the “young adult,” who seemed to have been instructed to interrupt brusquely, whereupon the teenager turned equally abruptly and disappeared down the ramp. Conversation continued with great intensity, and strange connections seemed to emerge among the interlocutors. (Was there a background loop by which the first child told the middle-ager or the oldster what you’d been talking about?) By the time the final interpreter (the “older adult”) accepted the last handoff and announced, “This work is called This Progress,” one felt the full-blown exhilaration of anonymous yet emotionally intimate exchanges with strangers. The piece constituted a public sphere within which one performed one’s theater of self, an existential affirmation of individual “progress” in which saying seemed to make it so.

Although first presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, This Progress seemed tailor-made for the Guggenheim’s spiraling, intestinal ramp. Having seen Sehgal’s work in Venice and Berlin, I might even assert that the Guggenheim is his most successful venue yet. The imagery offered by this constructed situation was evocatively postapocalyptic (Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 came to mind): small clusters of people, intensely focused on the floor as they walked, listened, and conversed, affirmatively eking out culture from the “material” of their own live encounters. Thrillingly accessible, Sehgal’s piece simultaneously achieved a kind of tour de force of speech-act theory, the production of a public whose utterances were not constative or descriptive but performative—fulfilling the charge, à la Austin, to do things with art.⁷

ALLOW ME, THEN, TO STAGE AN IMAGE: The performative public of Sehgal’s Guggenheim work forms a chiasmus with the public performative of Abramović’s recent activities. That is, if Sehgal propels the public into speech acts that constitute the work of art (e.g., that are performative), Abramović has often positioned the public as passive witnesses to reperformance. This is not to minimize the sheer ambition of Abramović or to disparage the heuristic value of her projects. In fact, her work serves to illuminate the dependence of reperformance on the artistic documentation that Sehgal so assiduously eschews. Working against museums’ attempts to convert ephemeral performance events into concrete, fungible assets (via authenticated, collected documents that can become scripts for “authorized” reenactments), Abramović’s reconstructions ultimately reveal the impossibility of stable authenticity where performance art is concerned. Her 2005 Guggenheim series set into high relief the modesty and transience of those ’70s events (most staged in galleries, performed for tape in the studio, or enacted on the street—definitely not in museums). And as art historian Mechtild Widrich has shown (building on the work of Amelia Jones and others), those 2005 reperformances were often constructed from staged photographs (as with Export’s work, to take only the most intriguing example), resulting in a mise en abyme of reproduction in which there is never any secure, original “performance” to be restaged.⁸ Instead of the authentic re-creation of “presence,” where we could (re)experience an “original,” what Abramović produced was another link in the chain of performatives—those successive iterations that continuously constitute the audience for “the performance” and produce the palimpsest of memories we call “the work.” By analogy with what Michel Foucault called the author function, we might call these accumulated performatives “the artwork function”: the aggregate that, when successful, builds the collective and experiential substance of the living work of art.

So while the historian will still want to figure out what happened (or probably didn’t) in the darkened Munich porno theater where Export’s Action Pants was supposedly staged, the invisibility—or even unlikeliness—of the event itself does not invalidate its history as a performative. What the recent explosion of live art makes clear is that art’s contemporaneity has always relied on a capacity to mobilize ongoing and subtle performatives: things and thoughts made in the present by audiences confronting something in the past. Any artwork, no matter how fleeting, perforce comes from the past (even Sehgal’s situations have their rehearsals) and must speak to us in the present if they are art at all. Contemporaneity can consist of nothing else, whether we are dealing with the ongoing liveness of Raft of the Medusa or of This Progress.

Maria S. H. M. (left) and Abigail Levine reenacting Marina Abramović’s Imponderabilia, 1977, Museum of Modern Art, New York, spring 2010. Photo: Scott Rudd.

In 2010, Sehgal and Abramović and Bruguera and Jonas, along with their presenting museums, are negotiating anew these mixed lessons of performance, the document, and the aesthetics of experience. Each attempts to stage what Alain Badiou describes with the awkward English neologism “evental site,” a spatial and interpersonal realm in which social and political configurations can come into being, but only through the rupture that is an event.⁹ Given these high stakes, it is revealing that Abramović wants both to abandon and to claim the necessity of her own unique body. Even as she insists that “The Artist Is Present,” she has now produced a troupe of trained bodies that will, in the restaging of works such as Imponderabilia, provoke a performative public, as well as a public performative. This is also the case for the new piece that gives the MoMA retrospective its absurd title. For we who enter the contractual terms of The Artist Is Present (as I did after a five-hour wait) necessarily become trained and performative bodies. We stand in a line, just outside the taped perimeter of a large and theatrically illuminated square, within which the artist sits at a table; the guard informs us as we approach the head of the line that we may not speak, place our hands on the table, bring anything with us, or ask for autographs (“Some people think they can bring the book for her to sign”). Indeed, “if you gesture, the performance is over.”¹⁰ Just as the reperformance of Imponderabilia upstairs allows for the possibility (largely absent in Easy Pieces) of actively negotiating the charged spaces of performers in public, The Artist Is Present also engages the museum public in a performative transaction. But the performative of The Artist Is Present has only a fractional relation to the fetish of presence. The experience of the intersubjective gaze, admittedly compelling, is consistently bracketed through photo releases you must sign, through the three “live” webcams, through the Italian photographer making a book of the piece, and not least through the picture-snapping visitors surrounding the spotlighted atrium—in short, by the overwhelming apparatus of “the document” that Sehgal has problematized. The Artist Is Present inserts the visitor into an intensely mediated and surveilled art activity; one’s production of performatives is compromised, to say the least.¹¹

The recent investments in performance at various art institutions mark a larger development that bears comment. For although Sehgal and Abramović stand at opposite ends of their own practices (Sehgal required to build an oeuvre, Abramović to consolidate a legacy), both operate within a broader assumption that performance art, like video, is rapidly being captured by the net of history. Once marginal to the canon of formalist modernism, video and performance are now partners in the uncanny embalming and reanimation of the live. (Perhaps only Jonas successfully works in this gap.) That performance has a history has now become official; that this historical and/or embodied material can be collected (and thus be fiduciary), as Sehgal has made clear, now seems inevitable.¹²

But it is inevitable only because Sehgal has somehow pulled it off. Documentation and history do not necessarily entail the fiduciary. It can be argued that live-art events were always accompanied by their own fairly penniless historical narratives—Allan Kaprow’s explanatory tome Assemblages, Environments, Happenings came out in 1965, RoseLee Goldberg’s Performance Art in 1979; and a blossoming of more theoretical approaches in the late 1990s arose in the work of Jones, Kathy O’Dell, and Peggy Phelan. This surge was capped by Paul Schimmel’s blockbuster show “Out of Actions” at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in 1998. Such bookish or historical enterprises had little ambition to be live; Schimmel’s attempt to have Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy perform a work for his exhibition only resulted in an acerbic statement made available in the galleries, in which the artists criticized the museum’s endeavor as an attempt to sway “the history of performance art in the direction of a materialist art-historical reading. . . . Many significant works of art . . . are not meant to be seen within the physical framework of the museum.”¹³

HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED. Something in the past decade has torqued artists’ principled refusal of materialist art history, has drawn event-based art into “the physical framework of the museum,” and has whetted institutions’ appetite for live art. We can’t blame it all on Nicolas Bourriaud; his roundly criticized text Relational Aesthetics (2002) in fact only captured an existing flow of desire, a fleshy and sensuous demand for embodiment against the pull of the virtual. MoMA’s Abramoganza actually follows six of the museum’s smaller ongoing “Performance” series, yet it is positioned as the first in “a series of performance art-focused exhibitions” aimed to “create a history and a lineage that hasn’t really existed.”¹⁴ Hasn’t really existed? No, a history exists, but it hasn’t (until now) entered the fiduciary portfolio of this museum. (By extension, are we to understand that the undercapitalized “Performance” series shouldn’t be counted?) The model of the nomadic artist dropping in to do a site-specific installation has easily slipped into that of the nomadic artist coming to program a carefully staged series of performatives. Has the spectator been liberated in the process, to invoke Rancière once again?

Chris Burden, Trans-fixed, 1974. Performance view, Venice, CA, April 23, 1974. Photo: Charles Hill.

Liberation may be the wrong ax to grind in a system where capital seems to thrust itself into every nook and cranny of the performative equation. The canonization of performance art has been a cumulative process. But never has it been so infused with demands for reanimation and collection or so successful in its engagement of the public—without either enslaving or automatically emancipating it. A significant data point was doubtless the founding of the Performa biennial by Goldberg in 2005, which inaugurated itself with Abramović’s Seven Easy Pieces and has played a major role in stimulating New York institutions’ uncanny historical reanimations. Built into biennial culture is the expectation of “experience” and a kind of art-world free pass for bombast, reenactment, and the staging of empty performance props as relics or souvenirs (from Beuys at Venice in ’76 to the theme of Antropofagia in São Paulo in ’98). Abramović’s fearless embrace of kitsch has fit right into this frame, as in her “living installation” Entering the Other Side, 2005, with its Marian iconography that had Abramović emerging from an enormous blue skirt like Mother Ginger’s in The Nutcracker, echoed in her flowing robe for The Artist Is Present.

Costumes notwithstanding, Abramović’s curious concept of reperformance in the 2005 Performa forced (mostly former) performance artists to adjudicate their relation to the “moment” of their earlier work in live art. Acconci and Export had no problem; Chris Burden notably refused to permit Abramović to reperform his crucifixion piece (although her Lips of Thomas, 1975/2005, filled the Christological bill). Burden instead allowed artist Tom Marioni to make a statement on his behalf, widely circulated in the art world: “The performance art of the early 1970s was concrete. We made one-time sculpture actions. If Mr. Burden’s work were re-created by another artist, it would be turned into theater, one artist playing the role of another.” And that is indeed how the Flickr captions describe it: “Marina Abramović as Joseph Beuys.” The fear of theater, galvanized by Michael Fried’s polemic against theatricality in his 1967 essay “Art and Objecthood,” is palpable for Abramović as well. She defensively claims that her reperformances remain distinct from the abjured realm of entertainment: “Theater you repeat, theater you play somebody else, theater is a black box. Performance is real.¹⁵

In the phantasmagoric “real” hides both the fetish of presence (the public performative) and the utopia of connection (the performative public). We might understand the museum as precisely the space in which this fetish and this utopia have always stood in productive tension—the museum’s rituals of decorum forming a compliant citizenry, while its material “object lessons” offer a physical experience of connection, power, and knowledge. Indeed, museums’ expansionist attempt to encompass experiences and events may seem to open onto Rancière’s dream of “a theater where spectators will no longer be spectators, where they will learn things instead of being captured by images and become active participants in a collective performance.”¹⁶ Yet here again, the chiasmus formed by Abramović and Sehgal complicates such utopia. While Abramović argues that the current spate of live-art events responds to the economic recession, questioning the market and returning to the edgy and supposedly uncollectable realm of performance, she clearly hopes that her spectacularized show will have the opposite effect.¹⁷ Sehgal, in turn, echoes Rancière in hoping that the knowledge “that his or her own presence has consequences can kind of empower the viewer”¹⁸—but the artist simultaneously frustrates our hopes for such empowerment by making the institutional and private collection of his works seem completely unproblematic. (And certainly unconventional: He makes possible the exchange of information and money with a legally notarized oral transfer of instructions, partially distributed among various people, including himself, the interpreters, the managers of the interpreters, trained dancers, curators, and collectors, producing a repeatable situation for any given museum.)

What all of these attempts at institutionalization reveal is a surprising truism: that we, the public, are primary to the performatives of event-based art. The “information economy” and the “experience economy” demand no less—but those cynical terms do not determine the outcome of every encounter. The late-’60s moment in which agency and participation began to seem incendiary (pit your body against the machine, make the personal political) is also the epoch in which such strategies entered the safe house of the aesthetic, posing alternate possibilities for experience that remain provocative. Contemporary appeals to the aesthetic of experience, then, always need to be leveraged by our own demands to experiment. We are responsible for our own performativity and for the politics we make of “emancipated” experience. Best to enter these ludic contracts as both knowers and dupes—only then might we really manage to do things with art.

Caroline A. Jones is a professor of art history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA.

Joan Jonas, Mirage, 1976/2005, two-channel video projection, props, stages, photographs. Installation view, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2009.


1. This fetishism of presence becomes bathetic “lifestyle” in the New York Times feature on Abramović’s SoHo loft and country house. See Elaine Louie, “On Location: Sets for the Artist Marina Abramović’s Dramatic Life,” New York Times, March 3, 2010: D1.

2. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words: The William James Lectures Delivered at Harvard University in 1955, ed. J. O. Urmson (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1962).

3. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, trans. R. F. C. Hull (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1949), 21, 23.

4. See Jacques Rancière, “The Emancipated Spectator,” lecture given at the Fifth International Summer Academy, Frankfurt, August 20, 2004; Rancière, “The Emancipated Spectator,” Artforum (March 2007): 271–80. Later published as the first chapter in Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Gregory Elliot (London: Verso, 2009). Thanks to Rebecca Uchill for this important reference.

5. Significantly, Ulay lists the work in the “Ulay/Abramović” part of his website rather than the “Abramović/Ulay” section.

6. Apparently, at a performance art workshop, Abramović asked Sehgal openly how he managed this, when her practice requires her to continue selling photographs and videos. He answered that his training began in economics and that through this discipline he learned how exchange could be based on consensus about value rather than about objects. Carol Kino, “A Rebel Form Gains Favor. Fights Ensue,” New York Times, March 10, 2010: AR25.

7. See Dorothea von Hantelmann, How to Do Things with Art (Zurich and Dijon, France: JRP/Ringier and Les Presses du Réel, 2010).

8. See Mechtild Widrich, Performative Monuments, Ph.D. dissertation, MIT, 2009; Amelia Jones, Body Art/Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1998); Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1999). On Seven Easy Pieces, see also Johanna Burton, “Repeat Performance,” Artforum (January 2006); 55–56.

9. The original French is the more felicitous site événementiel. See Badiou, L’Être et l’événement (1988), translated by Oliver Feltham as Being and Event (London: Continuum Books, 2005).

10. Remarks by the MoMA guard monitoring the line at The Artist Is Present, April 3, 2010.

11. Perhaps “presence” today is ontologically related to these public spaces of surveillance? It was possible for this viewer to be moved by Abramović’s own imprisonment in the artwork and to feel empathy. I cried, she cried, and in that limbic sense our mirror neurons were certainly co-present.

12. The clarity of Sehgal’s practice in regard to collecting and the market needs further research. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago was pleased to be the first owner of The Kiss; director Madeleine Grynsztejn now happily admits that they are one of several owners of the piece: “I guess it’s kind of an edition, and we have the artist’s proof” (comment to the author, February 2010). Sehgal’s fondness for oral history and notarized exchange makes this (“artist’s proof”) as valid a nomenclature as any; time will tell whether these “multiples” inform the structure of Sehgal inventories and catalogues raisonnés to come, and whether the oral and body knowledge of the works will be allowed to mutate without intervention by the artist.

13. Mike Kelley, Mike Kelley: Minor Histories—Statements, Conversations, Proposals (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 114–15.

14. Isabella Bruno, interviewed as part of documentation for the MoMA retrospective. See “Cleaning the House” workshop link.

15. Marina Abramović, interviewed for MoMA documentation “What Is Performance Art?” available online here.

16. Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, 4.

17. MoMA, “What Is Performance Art?”

18. Tino Sehgal, interviewed by Tim Griffin, Artforum (May 2005): 218–19.