Intervista a Marilyn Arsem di Lucrezia Sinigaglia


Intervista rilasciata dall’artista Marilyn Arsem a Lucrezia Sinigaglia il 2 gennaio 2016

Dear Ms. Arsem,

first of all, it is a great honor to receive your reply, so thank you very much.

I will try to be brief.

I was at MFA the 9th of December 2015, during the afternoon: I saw you sitting on the floor talking with the viewers and unfortunately did not have a chance to interact with you as I could not spend too much time visiting the museum. However, I had a chance to gather information throughout the web after I came back to Italy and thought about writing this paper (I also downloaded your book on I-tunes). Here are the few questions I would like to ask you:

Lucrezia Sinigaglia:  Recalling your citation “If viewers have the time to allow themselves to slow down with me, small details will become visible” do you think that art, widely considered a hobby and sometimes a “waste of time”, could be a mean through which people, nowadays living in such a frantic world, could regain consciousness of their time and existence? If we were all a bit more “artists”, could we think more deeply about ourselves, about our surroundings and live with less anxiety and stress every day’s life?

Marilyn Arsem: I think that people come to museums in order to see how others think about the world around them, and use it as an opportunity to reflect on their own lives.  Spending time in a museum is a kind of break from people’s everyday reality. I don’t believe that those people think of art as a waste of time, but something that requires skill and dedication.  While they may not always feel comfortable with a particular art work, in general I believe that they appreciate the effort.

L. S.  It is said that time flows also depending on our moods: sometimes it seems very fast (usually when we have fun), other times it seems slow (when sad or waiting for someone or something): your performance lasts six hours daily (without counting the two hours spent recording), every day, for a total duration of 100 days. Do all these hours spent in the performance always pass quickly? Have you ever thought it is tough, physically and mentally, to endure the performance for such long time?

arsem Sinigaglia 3

M. A. Each day’s hours unfold differently.  How long the time feels depends on what I am doing, my state of mind, what I am thinking about, and what kind of physical demands it makes on my body.  I engage in a single action on each of the days, and while it might seem repetitive or a single focus, it always changes over time.

L. S. You might agree that your work can be classified as Performance Art and in this case Participatory Art. Do you think this form of art is not enough represented in important galleries and museums?

M. A. Not all of the performances in this piece are participitory.  There are some days when I don’t engage with the public at all.  You might get a sense of that if you look at the twitter or instagram feeds at  #marilynarsem  Some of the days can involve diffferent kinds of participation by the audience.  Some of it includes talking (which you saw), though not always.  Each day’s action is designed differently. Performance Art is not something that can be collected, and most museums are focused on collecting and preserving art for future generations.  Performance Art doesn’t easily fit into that mandate.  They might preserve documentation, but that is not actually the work.  Live art is ephemeral, and disappears as soon as it happens, and only a story of what happened can be told.  That story is never complete, and only reflects a single viewer’s interpretation of what they (think they) saw.

L. S. A lot of people visit museums every year, many of them only giving a superficial look at works, then forgetting what they have seen.  Do you think that your form of art might have a different impact on people’s mind? How would you compare the impact of your interactive work on people with the famous painting by Gauguin “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”  

M. A.I don’t know exactly how to answer this question, since I can’t really know the impact of my work, or his, on others.  BUT, what I would say is that both that particular painting and my work are asking questions about how we live our lives, and how we think about existence.  Those questions often stay with us even after we see the art work, and we answer them over and over again, as our understanding of the world changes. In general, a work of art takes on more meaning the more you take time with it.  It requires an investment of yourself to ‘receive’ anything in return.  It is a dialogue.

L. S. Do you think that social media, thanks to their immediacy and large share of live events, can somehow boost the promotion of Participative Art?

M. A.I think that social media gives the illusion of being there, but it is only an illusion.  There is much more in the live event that can be seen and heard, and smelled and felt, which can’t be captured in social media.  I would also suggest that the person who is posting live to social media is paying less attention to what is happening to themselves in the immediate experience, and thinking more about who is seeing what they are posting online.  The cell phone is so often a barrier between their eyes and body and the experience.  I imagine that they are thinking that they will look at it later, rather than just being in the moment with the experience.  That is sad, I think.