The Artist is Present
What lessons can we learn from modern art?
Personally, I am not a fan of modern art; I generally hate it. But there is one piece of modern art that I really admire and respect. It’s called, “The Artist is Present” by Marina Abramovic.
Marina Abramovic is an artist/actress. She does modern art with the human body, so don't look her up. She's really weird and has a lot of crazy stuff that is not G-rated. Again, I don't like modern art, but the piece, “The Artist is Present” that she did was quite incredible to me.
The Artist is Present
In the “Artist is Present”, she spent a collective 700 hours sitting in a chair, staring intently at whoever sat in front of her. She didn't say a word; she sat there and gazed intently into the eyes of the person across from her. She never lost focus or stared into space and she was always present with the person she was looking at.
She hardly moved while one person at a time would sit in front of her. They could spend as much or as little time as they wanted. Some people spent hours sitting there and staring with her. Thousands of people were touched by her performance and they found a very powerful and meaningful to have another human so intently focused on them. I understand some were even brought to tears by it.
Imagine the focus!
I want you to think for a minute about the focus that would be needed for this. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time maintaining focus (as do most people in our day and age where everything moves by so quickly, we're used to instant gratification, and so many distractions).
It’s difficult to be intent on something. Imagine sitting there all day long, not thinking about any of the things you need to do later, not worrying about what you did in the past or what you're going to do in the future, but only thinking about that moment with whoever is in front of you, even if you don't know the person. Imagine the level of focus that takes.
That's what I admire from this performance: the focus and intensity of concentration involved.
What could happen if we put that much focus in our conversations/relationships
Now I want you to think about what could happen if we put that much focus into our own conversations and relationships. Honestly, it might freak some people out at first, because they're not used to people actually paying attention. Unfortunately too often we don't pay attention to the people around us. We're usually distracted by a phone or something that we're looking at, while they're talking to us. I know at least I am very guilty of this.
Imagine the transition from coming home from work and sitting by a spouse on the couch watching TV and then chatting a little bit about what happened that day during the commercial breaks, versus sitting right in front of your spouse, looking that person intently in the eyes, and focusing on every single thing they're saying. I don't know how to do that personally but I think it's awesome.
I think there's a lot we can learn from this performance for both our conversations and our relationships.
A challenge for you is to try to be present. You don't have to do it for hours on end, but try being present for five minutes in two different settings. Be present by yourself and be present in a conversation. Being present for five minutes by yourself is just meditation. Meditate for five minutes, and only think about the present; don't think about the past or future; only think about what you're doing at that moment.
Then I want you to have a conversation with someone you care about. Be fully present. They might not be fully present with you, and that's okay. But I want you to, for at least five minutes, when you're talking to them, put down all distractions, look at them in the eyes, sit or stand face to face, and keep your focus completely on them.
Try not to get distracted. Try not to have your mind wander off on something you need to do; you'll think about it some other time. Focus on every word they're saying and every movement they're making. It sounds kind of creepy, but they might actually appreciate someone listening to them so intently. It might make them feel appreciated or important or cared about. Try having that sense of focus, and even if you can't have that sense of focus, just think about it, and see if you can get closer to it.