An Essay about an Amazing Moment at the MoMA in New York City, New York

Art Unveiled: the MoMA in New York City – Marina & Ulay

Most of my adult life has been spent exploring, in one fashion or another; I would wake up in the morning, and have an uncontrollable itch to get ready for, and then disappear into the day. Much like the young shepherd, or Odd Thomas, once I stepped out into the world, I would be guided by an authority greater than but no more curious than me. Because of this I have been open to and directly in the path of opportunity, regardless of what that might be.

I might be inspired to speak to a particular person or visit a particular place without understanding or questioning, or searching for a motive; when I was younger I simply allowed for these things to happen to me, I was never conscious of a decision or a feeling, it was little more than an unconscious intent to follow. The older I got I started trying to hone and develop this feeling, but my attempts to understand only led me further from it but not before introducing me to remarkable people and places, and ideas.

          One day I happened into the MoMA Museum in New York City, I’ve been to the MoMA a number of times but walking by this day I was beckoned inside and like any museum I started straight for the exhibits, displays, and artwork on the walls ignoring, at first, a small group of people that had gathered near the museums center. I walked by again and noticed the crowed had grown considerably.

I didn’t know until it was explained to me by another onlooker that a performance artist, Marina Abramovic, had staged a live art performance and was allowing anyone willing to participate, she set a table in the center of the room with two chairs, she was sitting in one and was allowing whomever to sit in the second. The point was for any two people to sit and make eye contact, only; there was no talking; two people sitting in silence. This was the performance, no words would be shared, this was simply two people being present with one another while the rest of the world watched.

I watched for several minutes as a dark-haired woman, Marina—I would come to find out—sat across from a tall, thin man with salt and pepper hair and a well-groomed gray beard covering his chin, and then I went about exploring the rest of the museum. I didn’t know, until several years later, that—not only was there someone whom I would eventually meet years later and on the other side of the country also there that day, and at that same time— that the salt and pepper haired gentlemen sitting across from Marina was the artist, Ulay.

         Marina and Ulay, in their youth, had been collaborators and lovers, and until that day at the MoMA the two artists had—supposedly—neither seen nor heard from one another in many years. How amazing and terrifying and exhilarating would that be? To sit across from someone in perfect silence while tens of tens of tens of people watched, and not a single one of them knowing that they were watching a couple lost to each other, two past performance artists and lovers meeting again for the first time in years, and as much older people sharing nothing by eye contact and then for Ulay to simply stand and walk away.

            At the time, I didn’t know that is what I was watching. I wouldn’t find out until a couple years later when I came across an article written about the supposed chance meeting. What’s also fascinating is that I wrote about that performance as a scene in my novel. My publisher and friend and I were sitting at a coffeehouse in the Texas Hill Country, and she started telling me a story about this time she went to the MoMA; I had just received the physical copy of my book that week and I had it with me, in my bag. I pulled the copy of my novel out and flipped to the chapter and to the page and read those paragraphs and then told her about my experience at the same event, and at the same time.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.