Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present” exhibition at MoMA last summer was undoubtedly one of the most important in recent history. The legendary artist positioned herself in the museum’s atrium for a period of three months, sitting silent and motionless for hours at a time every day the museum was open, and invited the public to sit across from her in a poetic stare down that brought many to tears. As the crown jewel of a major performance art retrospective at one of the world’s preeminent modern and contemporary art institutions, it drew daily crowds by the hundreds and saw 1,565 participants lose themselves in Marina’s dark, unwavering stare. If you missed the monumental exhibition, never fear. Artist and game developer Pippin Bar has encapsulated the experience for you in a new browser-based video game called “The Artist Is Present”, virtually recreating Abramovic’s work. Well, almost.
Bar’s game depicts every little detail of the experience—from the requisite ticket purchase (with the newly raised ticket price of $25.00) to recreating several iconic artworks like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans—all with a hearty dose of snark. The game sees you join a long, seemingly immobile, line of people waiting to sit across from Abramovic. You can try to cut the line, but your virtual conscience kicks in: “Seems like it would be rude to just walk across the tape,” it scolds you. When join the endlessly long line again, the game tells you cheerily “Now all you have to do is wait.” And, spoiler alert: That’s it.
The game appears to be at once a tribute and a playful jab at the exhibition, focusing more on the period of purgatory that would-be performance participants are forced to go through in order to have their moment with Marina. And whereas in the original performance piece, the waiting on line aspect was as much a part of the experience as sitting in the hot seat, generating a sense of camaraderie and community among the patient hopefuls, Bar’s version ends up being more frustrating than transcendant. It misses the social aspects of the performance and of course can’t replicate the intense energy of that room. Nevertheless, we love his attempt at encapsulating the performance for the world to share in and for making the artist present, eternally.