mutual gaze

I haven't been a fan of Marina Abramović's work. It's too much pain and suffering. I find parts of it interesting, but it makes me so uncomfortable, nauseated at times, that it's hard to focus on those interesting bits.

Last weekend, I went to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art alone. It is one of my favorite places in the world; a place where I can trust that I will always feel at ease, safe, happy, inspired, and deeply connected to myself. I had never been there alone before.

Marina Abramović's work, it turns out, does change, later in her life, from the painful performances I had seen and read about before this exhibition. It gets quieter, more introspective; less about the physical limits of the body; more about connection. Needless to say, it attracts me more. The further into the exhibition I walked, the calmer I got.

After reading the instructions on the sign above and putting my bag in a locker, I was showed to a chair by one of the museum staff. I didn't wait long until a person sat down on the chair in front of me, and we started looking into each other's eyes.

So many thoughts passed through my head while I sat there. For how long? Fifteen minutes? I'm quite sure it was more. Thirty? I have never looked into another person's eyes for that long before. I passed through so many phases. There were times when I let my mind wander to serious things, never not looking into his eyes as I did so. There were phases when all I could think of was the intricate muscles around the eye; relaxing mine, studying his; all the beautiful lines and corners. There were phases when all I could think of was how my different body parts felt: How my eyes were getting tired from staring, how the wooden bench I sat on had started to feel hard, how I needed to shift my feet veeery slowly so as to make the movement invisible, when they had started tingling.

There were phases when I focused on opening myself up and letting new things in; there were phases when I focused on warmth, sending it over to him. And for most of the time, I needed to focus on keeping myself from laughing. Not because anything was funny, but because the intensity, the beauty of the situation, the meeting, the seeing, filled me up entirely with the deepest happiness. I felt carbonated with joy, the bubbles threatening to burst through the surface any second (they did, a couple of times). I saw that he felt the same; the smallest movement of the corners of one of our mouths, triggered an immediate response in the other person.

He was so gorgeous. So beautiful. While I sat there, he was the most beautiful person I have ever seen. I can't remember if he was when he first sat down. I don't think so? But somewhere, he became almost overwhelmingly gorgeous. And after some time, I thought: What if it works the other way around? What if right now, I am now the most beautiful person he has ever seen? That thought shook me; it's been years since anyone made me feel like the most beautiful person they have ever seen. But I was, for fifteen minutes, or half an hour; I was.

I started having too many emotions at the same time after a while. I felt like I was going to explode, or evaporate. That feeling came in waves, and was hard to bear, for someone like me, who would shout and sing and bite and dance and jump. Next time I need to make an effort not to explode, I'll leave, I decided. And a short while later, I did; I stood up, with the brightest smile as I looked at him, and left.

He left immediately after me; I was not surprised, I would have done the same. I remember thinking "if he leaves first, I need to leave right away, so they can't put someone else in front of me"; there was no space left in me for meeting another person after that. He walked up to me, looked into my eyes and smiled very deeply, squeezed my arm gently and said "thank you". Then he was gone. I didn't see him again after that.

I went out into the garden. I strolled slowly, looked at all the sculptures, but didn't really see them; I didn't need to. I bought a delicious passionfruit pastry, and ate it very carefully, deliberately, on the stairs in the garden, overlooking the water, the early autumn sun as kind as ever. No need to look at the rest of the musuem after that. I didn't need more, of anything, that day.

I said hi to my favorite artwork, Gleaming Lights of the Souls by Yayoi Kusama, where I always find beautiful parts of myself I had forgotten. And then I took the train home. Totally new, and completely unchanged; everything new had always been a part of me already, anyway.

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