Newly commissioned pieces from Performa05 raise questions about shifting modes of transmission and witness in the staging of performance and visual art, also key concerns considered in response to M189TDR_11249_front 2/16/06 9:24 AM Page 3 Seven Easy Pieces, 2005, Marina Abramovic's (re)performance of seminal works by Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, VALIE EXPORT, and Gina Pane.
In her essay on Marina Abramović's 2002 tour de force The House with the Ocean View at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City, Peggy Phelan asks the artist, "Marina, what do you remember?" (2003:176). That performance, as a meditation on the then-recent September 11 terrorist action, was in many ways about remembering; Abramović's Seven Easy Pieces at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City three years later was also about remembering, though the question this time might be "Marina, how do we remember?"
Seven Easy Pieces was and was not a part of the concurrent PERFORMA05 Festival,1 curated by RoseLee Goldberg, from 3 through 21 November 2005: As a part of the economic and artistic institution of the Guggenheim, it was not a part; yet as a means to remember, to celebrate, and to contemplate the current state of performance art, it was. Abramović's (re)performance, or, in Phelan's words, "performance covers" (2005), of canonical performance artworks was as much a means of remembering these pieces through an embodied documentation (a remembering, if you will) as it was a new work in itself. These seven works, which once were unique events spanning a full decade of performance art history, now comprised different movements of the same piece, performed over seven consecutive nights in the Guggenheim's rotunda.
Some memories remain more clear, more present than others, and Abramović's rendition of Nauman's Body Pressure (1974; [re]performed 9 November 2005), Gina Pane's The Conditioning from Self-Portrait(s) (1973; 12 November 2005), and Joseph Beuys's How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965; 13 November 2005) proffered the most compelling re-actions.2
The wall text of Nauman's Body Pressure originally was an action to be performed by the audience, the instructions reading:
Press as much of the front surface ofyour body (palms in or out, left or right cheek)against the wall as possible.Press very hard and concentrate.Form an image of yourself (suppose youhad just stepped forward) on theopposite side of the wall pressingback against the wall very hard. [...](Nauman  2002)
In Nauman's version, the audience was invited to "hold up" a "false" wall constructed before a real wall of the Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf. In Abramović's, a glass wall, about 10 by 12 feet, stood on the circular stage erected in the [End Page 170] Guggenheim's rotunda, offset by the deep red walls and gold letters of the museum's ongoing exhibition "RUSSIA!" (the stage remained, in some form or other, throughout the week). Abramović, dressed in denim coveralls very similar to her wardrobe from The House with the Ocean View, performed the action of holding up the wall as a prerecorded track played her reading of the instructions. There was no "forming" of the image, as it—Marina's hyper-present body viewed through the glass—was always already there.
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Whereas the original was an ensemble piece, Abramović's performance was a solo, with the audience rendered passive to her unspecific gaze. The work of performance, emphasized by Abramović's proletarian clothing, seemed to remain fully the artist's rather than the audience's, and this distancing (and the comparison of Abramović walking around the glass to the strike lines of students on New York University's campus, which began the same day) spoke to the congruent futility and necessity of artistic action.
Watching Abramović's prostrate...