I assume you’ve already come across the sensational video of Marina Abramovic and Ulay during Marina’s performance at the Museum of Modern Arts in New York. But I’m going to go ahead and tell you about it anyway, because it is a story worth learning and worth re-living.
Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love affair in the 1970s, performing out of a van they called home. Their performances about ego, body and love were boldly intimate, unseemingly intricate and ever so influential. When their relationship became too challenging, they decided to part ways. To say goodbye, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last embrace in the middle. That was the last time they saw each other…
In 2010, as part of MOMA Retrospective The Artist is Present, Marina shared a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. On opening night, Ulay arrived without Marina knowing. This is their encounter in that moment:
So much happens in a single moment. She blooms like a young, bashful girl when she sees him; his eyes filled with memories. In their loaded stares, their emotions rock like soft, caressing tides. In a moment…
When someone asks us for happy, significant memories in our lives, we automatedly give for an answer a bouquet of weddings and births and graduations. Yet when we take the time to look through the cluttered drawers of our minds, and allow ourselves to feel, it’s not the important life events that we recall. It’s the small moments that come rushing forward.
My gentle grandfather holding a ladybug on his finger, telling me to make a bridge so the ladybug can cross over to my finger. Having lunch at La Colombe D’or. The moment I grabbed my sweet, scared Cavalier King Charles puppy out of his cart, and into my arms the very first night we brought him home. Reading Women Who run with the Wolves in tears till the sun came up. In our early-twenties then, the way my ex-husband ran towards me after the first time he saw me in months; as if he had been drowning, and I was his breath of fresh air. Watching The Odd Couple under the New York sky, over a picnic at Bryant Park. The first time I ever heard Nina Simone. A giraffe watching the sun-set on an African safari. Every time my niece bursts out her big laugh, like she is a good hearted witch who accidentally got drunk.
In one of her speeches that is profound beyond her age, Tavi Gevinson, with an eloquent aptitude, refers to these moments as, Strange Magic. She gives us a glimpse at her journal where she writes down moments in real life, movies, books, songs and daydreams that hold some kind of wonder; memories that are so earnest in their simplicity, yet so mystical and majestic in the way they move our souls.
Be present. Be available. When all the lights are off and definitions thrown, all we have are these moments…. of strange magic.