Museum of Modern Love By Heather Rosep

“The days had been fields of faces, bright, unique, vivid, strange. There was no greater solitude, and no greater connection than being within the performance with the audience holding her in its gaze. She had expected it to be an energy exchange. A simple thing. But it hadn’t been simple. Every face was a song that carried her like love or pain into nothingness. Every face told countless lives and memories and parts of humanity she had never glimpsed, not through all the years of seeking. Here was the truth of people writ mysterious in every line and angle and eye. The taste of their lifetimes faded on her tongue as they each stood to go.”

This book was gifted to me by my good friend Michaela, @crazybooklady_ from Bookstagram. If you’re not following her please do so because her book reviews and selections are top notch. Not to mention she is one of the most sweetest people. I could not be happier that she chose to send me this book because so far it is my favorite of the year.

What I find most interesting about this story is that the author, Heather Rose, crafted this fictional narrative around real life artist, Marina Abramovic, and her exhibiton called The Artist is Present.


SYNOPSIS:

A mesmerizing literary novel about a lost man in search of connection - a meditation on love, art and commitment, set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, Marina Abramovic's The Artist is Present.


Admittedly, I was intimidated by this book. Art-literature is not a genre I have ever thought to explore nor performance art, but I had such a curiosity knowing that this was a fictional story birthed from an actual artist. This is not one of those books you see floating endlessly around everywhere. It’s obscure amidst bookstagram and I had only seen a total of two people post about it. However, when Michaela began to give me some context, I was even more intrigued. I am so elated that she was kind enough to send me this book because it has opened up my interest in reading more fictional art-lit as long as the writing is as beautiful as Rose’s.

In 2010 at the Museum of Modern Art {MoMA} Marina Abramovic sat in a chair, in complete silence, for roughly three months staring into the eyes of strangers who sat across from her. Evoking emotion and thought on various levels. This novel focuses on a group of people who experienced Abramovic’s exhibition first hand; those that worked with her and those that sat before her. How genius of Heather Rose to conceptualize a fictional tale around such a monumental event.

 
photo (5).jpg
 

The story centers around Arky. He’s a a film composer who made a promise to his ill wife, Lydia. I won’t spoil you on what that promise is because I REALLY want you to read this book. What I like most about Arky is his development. It seems he isn’t feeling established in his career as well as carrying feelings of hopelessness and doubt. However, he makes his way to MoMA to experience Abramovics performance and in his decision to do so he meets others who have come to observe and engage in the piece. Through these encounters, he begins to discover things about himself. He begins to be more vulnerable in conversations with complete strangers than he ever has in his entire life. Arky made me think about myself as a creative; the starving artist, so to speak, with multiple desires trying to find their way and being completely, unexpectedly inspired and creatively refreshed via a unique experience.

Another character I loved was Healayas. She was strong, confident, fearless and commanded attention without asking for it. I love the way Rose wrote her in such an unapologetic way and the antithesis of Healayas was Jane. Jane was not her opposite in that she lacked strength, but her strength was in her kindness and willingness to be open. The exhibit even caused Jane to have a life changing epiphany. Isn’t that the purpose of art? To reflect. What I also loved about this book was the way the characters blossomed. Their growth was real and the catalyst to this growth was this event that connected them all. All of their individual parts that make up the best and worst of them, were reflected in Abramovics exhibition as well - the human connection, the emotion, figuring out their paths in life through the people they met, the way they lived and the idealistic ways they wanted to live.

Rose wrote what could be considered a pretentious topic - performance art - and turned it into something relatable, emotional, lighthearted and even humorous. After I finished the book, I went to YouTube and watched a video of her performance and I would be putting up a hard front if I said it didn’t make me feel something. It made me love the book even more because I was able to see her passion for human connection through her art. Watch below as Marina connects with her former companion of 12 years during the actual exhibition in 2010!!!

I wouldn’t steer clear of this novel because you have preconceived notions about performance art or art lit. I’d encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and allow this story to make you think deeply about your own life journey; the ever complex and underlining question is who are we. What do we have to offer in this life during our time here? What is our purpose? Our truth? The novel tackles these existential questions in such a fluid way. Rose’s prose is magnificent. The story is beautiful. If you are on the hunt for a different genre and/or a different form of storytelling, definitely add this to your tbr. I feel like if I, who is grossly uneducated about performance art, loved this book you will too. Prepare yourself for self retrospection afterwards. Reading this novel has also made me curious about more performance artist like Abramovic. I will be flipping through the pages of this novel often when I need a reminder about how important it is that we as human beings connect to one another no matter the separation in background, culture, age etc.

I do have to warn you that there are explicit parts. It made me cringe a bit, but I am actually 6 years old so there’s that, but overall the writing is excellent and I highly recommend you read this book.

Rating: 5/5

“Well, she said, with a kind of matter-of-factness she employed to inform him of her choice of breakfast cereal, “ fear leads to doubt. Doubt leads to reason. Reason leads to choice. Choice leads to life. Without fear you don’t have doubt. Without doubt you don’t have reason. Without reason you don’t have choice. Without choice, you don’t have life.”