Artist Will Sit Naked on a Toilet In Performance Against Marina Abramović’s Vanity

There will be a toilet across from hers, if you care to join.

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

Plenty of artists have gotten inspiration from Marina Abramović, but Lisa Levy is taking it to its (sort of) logical next step. The Brooklyn-based painter, conceptual artist, and psychotherapist will sit, fully nude, on a toilet for two days in January at Bushwick’s Christopher Stout Gallery in a performance titled The Artist is Humbly Present.

Those familiar with Abramović’s now-legendary 2010 Museum of Modern Art performance The Artist is Present, where she sat in front of various patrons for 736 hours in the museum’s atrium, will understand the reference. But what, you might ask, would motivate someone to get naked in the middle of winter and sit on the porcelain throne in front of dozens of strangers?

Lisa Levy. The Artist is Humbly Present (censored view). 
Image: Courtesy of the gallery.

“I was just kind of fed up with the art world and all of the pretense,” Levy told artnet News via telephone, noting that she sees the performance as a kind of half joke, half social experiment—one that she hopes will spark an authentic reaction from viewers. “[A] lot of the art world is so connected with status and money and physical appearance, things like that. It’s gotten really far away from what’s important.”

She thought, what’s the most vulnerable, least egostical way a person can present themselves? The answer was clear: sitting unclothed on the toilet. Levy sees the action as a counterpoint to the kind of narcissistic artworks that place the artist on a pedestal, of which she believes Abramović’s work to be one of the most obvious examples.

“I was a huge fan of her up until the MoMA show,” she admits. “It’s her values that bother me. She’s so vain and so concerned with such superficial things.”

Levy’s performance will feature a second toilet placed across from her own, upon which visitors can sit. People are encouraged to respond to the performance however they wish, but are instructed to not touch the artist.

“I’m well aware that I’m setting myself up for criticism,” Levy admits, having been warned repeatedly to “not check the comments section” on Facebook posts regarding the event.

“I think the art world is taught not to respect art where the artist isn’t presenting themselves seriously. And I don’t take what I’m doing all that seriously. I’m just really curious to see what the experience will be like, and I think its funny, and I think a lot of people feel the same way that I do.”

The Artist is Humbly Present will take place at Christopher Stout Gallery from January 30–31, 2016. 1–6 p.m.


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