The Artist is Present

Marina and Ulay were partners in every sense of the word – sharing both a passion for their work as artists and collaborators, as well as for each other. The end of their relationship was just as dramatic when they agreed to walk the Great Wall of China, Marina starting from the Yellow Sea and Ulay from the Gobi Desert. They walked 2500 kilometres to meet in the middle and say goodbye.

In 2010, performance artist Marina Abramovic engaged in a minute of silence with each stranger that sat in front of her for her art retrospective and exhibition at the MoMA titled The Artist is Present. Neither a love prelude nor a love conclude, this short video shows Marina’s reaction when the stranger in front of her is Ulay.

Source: Wikipedia and a post from my friend J’s Facebook

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Carla & Mike

October 1999. While playing cards in the cafeteria at lunch with friends, Carla’s teenage girl antennas shoot up when a cute boy approaches her table with a friend. From the enthusiastic reception from her friends and his charming smile, Carla is instantly smitten with Mike. The boys sit down and join their game of Asshole. Before the bell could ring signally the end of third period, Carla causally asks everyone at the table for their phone number. She’s the new girl in school so she’s gotta make friends somehow, right? Carla waits 2 days to call Mike. The phone rings and his brother answers. Her palms are sweating, her heart racing until she hears his brother yell, “Hey Mike, Melissa’s on the phone”. What? Who’s Melissa? Did she just call another girl’s boyfriend? Mike comes on the line and she says immediately, “Hey Mike! It’s Carla”. He replies, “Holy shit! You actually called”. Interesting response. This would mark the beginning of a month-long engagement of phone calls, hanging out after school, sharing a locker and eventually doing everything together. As friends. One day, specifically November 2nd, Mike and Carla have an interesting conversation on the right amount of time one should know another person before starting to go out. Mike says 1 month. Carla marks the date December 2nd in her high school agenda and waits. She knows her feelings can’t be one-sided, so she begins to write down how she feels, in pencil, but no cheesy hearts. On December 1st, she tries to tells him all day but fails, literally feeling sick to her stomach. The next day, she tries again but another epic fail. Instead, she takes her letter and slips it into his uniform shirt pocket and walks off. During English class, she decides to take a washroom break and runs into Mike. Like the first day she met him, her palms are sweating, her heart racing but a bit more bold, she tells him she took a break hoping to run into him. They don’t talk about the letter, but when she asks him how his day is going, he smiles shyly and says great. Good sign. At lunch, they take a walk to the track. She asks him what he thought about her letter. He responds, “Yeah, I agree with the letter. It was nice.” He asks her if she noticed the clay star in their locker that he had made for her in art class; she hadn’t. They arrive at their locker and Carla sees that the star was now in the shape of a heart. That was Mike’s way of saying, “I like you too”.

Being bad ass at someone’s high school. Like the honey badger.

Photo courtesy of Christian - Omiš, 2012.

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An Ode to Things

My friend L. and I have developed a tradition of sorts where when one of us leaves the country for an extended period of time, we get each other a little gift that says, “You’re awesome. Safe travels.” This time, when she left for Europe, I got her a sketch pad, she got me a book of poetry called Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda. The night before starting a new job, I decided I needed a bit of poetry to help clear my mind. A book on things – how apropos!!

Neruda’s Ode to Things

I have a crazy,

crazy love of things.

I like pliers,

and scissors.

I love

cups,

rings,

and bowls –

not to speak, or course,

of hats.

I love

all things,

not just

the grandest,

also

the

infinite-

ly

small –

thimbles,

spurs,

plates,

and flower vases.

***

Oh yes,

the planet

is sublime!

It’s full of pipes

weaving

hand-held

through tobacco smoke,

and keys

and salt shakers –

everything,

I mean,

that is made

by the hand of man, every little thing:

shapely shoes,

and fabric,

and each new

bloodless birth

of gold,

eyeglasses

carpenter’s nails,

brushes,

clocks, compasses,

coins, and the so-soft

softness of chairs.

***

Mankind has

built

oh so many

perfect

things!

Built them of wool

and of wood,

of glass and

of rope:

remarkable

tables,

ships, and stairways.

I love

all

things,

not because they are

passionate

or sweet-smelling

but because,

I don’t know,

because

this ocean is yours,

and mine;

these buttons

and wheels

and little

forgotten

treasures,

fans upon

whose feathers

love has scattered

its blossoms,

glasses, knives and

scissors –

all bear

the trace

of someone’s fingers

on their handle or surface,

the trace of a distant hand

lost

in the depths of forgetfulness.

***

I pause in houses,

streets and

elevators

touching things,

identifying objects

that I secretly covet;

this one because it rings,

that one because

it’s as soft

as the softness of a woman’s hip,

that one there for its deep-sea color,

and that one for its velvet feel.

***

O irrevocable

river

of things:

no one can say

that I loved

only

fish,

or the plants of the jungle and the field,

that I loved

only

those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.

It’s not true:

many things conspired

to tell me the whole story.

Not only did they touch me,

or my hand touched them:

they were

so close

that they were a part

of my being,

they were so alive with me

that they lived half my life

and will die half my death.

Ana-Marija & André

Ana-Marija hates her job. Her best friend, tired of looking at her glum face, decides to take her to New York for the week-end. That’s love. They enjoy an afternoon in the Big Apple – sightseeing, shopping, restaurant-ing. Later, they get ready and head over to their friend’s hip club in Soho. The night is filled with dancing, Patrón and pineapple and, eventually, the VIP area turns into the unofficial (because it was technically illegal) smoking section. Here, Ana is approached by a man who politely asks whether or not he’s permitted to also enjoy a refreshment*. Ana, not interested in making small talk nor hiding her annoyance, sighs and tells him it’s fine, he can stay. After refreshing, he leaves. The next evening, the girls go for drinks on a roof-top patio. The patio is packed and they notice two guys standing. Eye contact is made, slight signals and nods exchanged, and the two guys make their way over and ask if they can join them. The four easily start chatting and Ana learns that one of them, André, is from Switzerland. A few rounds later, André turns to Ana and says, “You don’t remember me, do you?” Ana is confused and he replies, “We met last night at the club, and you were not very nice”. Oh dear, the refresher! They laugh at the coincidence and André and his friend ask if they would like to go somewhere else. Ana wouldn’t normally follow some stranger around, but something tells her the night isn’t over. They head over to the Meatpacking District and the lineup is huge. The four stand around, talking and laughing, and eventually forget all about the lineup. They stand on the sidewalk for the next few hours conversing about everything from the Olympics to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Eventually it’s time to leave but no one really wants to make the first move. Ana and André exchange email addresses – she politely offers to send him some of the photos she took on her new phone – and that’s it. As she leaves, she thinks to herself that it’s too bad he lives so far away, he was pretty perfect. Upon her return home, she emails the photos to André. No response. One day at work, the receptionist calls Ana and tells her that she has received a package. This is not unusual as she often has drawings couriered to her. What she finds are not drawings, but a box. Inside the box she finds Swiss chocolates on ice and a note that says, “Something Sweet from Switzerland.”

*refreshment: classier way of saying cigarette

Not appropriate, but a ‘sweet’ favourite …

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Zey & Joshua

Act I: Zey had heard all about Joshua. As students at LSE, she would often have to listen to her Turkish girlfriends gush over this super cute handsome guy in their class. Finally, Zey has the opportunity to meet said super cute guy – and after a few initial run-ins between him and her friends, Joshua finally musters up the courage to introduce himself to the mysterious girl he’d noticed from afar – he says, “By the way, I’m Joshua”. Zey unfortunately interprets his courageous efforts as cockiness and writes him off as just another casanova-confident cool guy.

Act II: Zey is helping to organize a friend’s 30th birthday boat party on the Thames. While selling tickets at the library, she sees Joshua and invites him to come. He declines. With 5 exams on the horizon, any form of social life is out of the question. On the night of the boat party, just as the last guests arrive, Zey notices Joshua by her side. Surprised, she asks what he’s doing there. He replies, “It was a last-minute decision”. That night, Zey, a non-flirter, sets her sights on a cute Greek guy and decides that she will flirt with him. But as the night progresses, her and Joshua’s paths cross and they stop to discuss life and its mysteries – a bit psychological, a bit philosophical, a bit spiritual. During these spontaneous moments, it’s just the two of them. But Joshua is not blind to the Greek guy at her side and secretly decides that there will be none of that. As the Greek and friends try to convince Zey to join them at a club, she opts for walking with Joshua along the river instead.

Act III: Joshua and Zey begin to spend time together. They find moments to sneak away from their studies for a tea break, for lunch, and at times taking refuge in the small secret park behind the school. Their first official date is at Momo’s, a Moroccan hookah bar, and it is here that Zey tells Joshua she will be returning to Turkey in a months time. As Zey explains, Joshua draws the curtains on this connection between them, although never completely cutting things off. This sudden change leaves Zey heartbroken, confused, and a little disappointed. When she receives a text from Joshua, who is in Venice, saying that he is thinking of her, she is excited. On the day of his return to London, she waits at his apartment building with a sweet box of blueberry muffins (his favourite) along with a stuffed monkey. She stands in the rain for 2 hours, asking everyone who enters if they are Joshua’s flatmate. Finally, his flatmate lets her in and she leaves the gift on his bed. The evening passes with no phone call from him and she is crushed. That night, they see each other at a bar while with their respective group of friends. Before they leave, the two silently make their way to each other and share a hug so full of love and passion, but also pain and the impossibility of this relationship.

Act IV: Zey leaves for Turkey. One day, she phones Joshua on a whim only to learn that his phone is disconnected. The following day, there is an email from him in her inbox. “Are you trying to contact me via psychic ways? I’m in Africa and feel your presence very strongly” he writes, unknowing of her attempted phone call.  The next few years pass and the two email rarely. The one constant in their correspondence is the shared feeling of incompleteness. Joshua remarks on this, saying he knows Zey entered his life for a reason but is unsure what that is, but maybe he’ll discover it when he is 97.

Act V: Three years after leaving London, Zey visits the U.S., stopping in NYC, Miami and finally L.A., Joshua’s hometown. Joshua meets Zey at the airport with a sunflower in hand. They visit Venice Beach where they share a hug that instantly transports them to that moment at the London pub long ago. They spend the week together, and visit San Francisco where Zey decides she will live one day. Between her and Joshua, it is evident that the spark is still there, but little hope – he lives in L.A. and she in Turkey. On a whim, Zey arranges a job interview in Miami soon after, and after speaking on the phone with Joshua, it’s clear that the connection is still there. She leaves for L.A. and meets his family and friends. Although she returns to Turkey again, there is now a feeling of hope. Joshua will soon travel to Turkey to convince Zey to move to the U.S. Two months later, they quit their jobs, pack up their lives and move to San Francisco. The two eventually marry in Istanbul, on a boat. As Zey tells me, what began as a magical surreal connection on a boat in London comes to a full circle on another boat on the Bosphorus 7 years later.

Île de Ré, France

Day at the Beach, Nemira, Omiš, Croatia

On the Bosphorus, Ortaköy, Turkey

Birthday Boat Ride on the Thames, London, UK (Photo provided by Zey – Zey in the centre linking arms with Joshua)

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