Artist
Marilyn Arsem

USA
https://marilynarsem.net/

Marilyn Arsem has been creating live events since 1975, ranging from solo performances to large scale, site-specific works incorporating installation and performance. Arsem has presented work at festivals, alternative spaces, galleries, museums and universities in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asian. In 2016 she completed a 100-day performance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Many of her works are durational in nature, and minimal in actions and materials. Created in response to the site, they engage with the immediate landscape and materiality of the location, its history, use, or politics. Arsem has often focused on designing site-specific events for audiences of a single person, allowing her to explore the unique properties of live performance: the possibility of direct interaction between performer and audience; the opportunity to engage the audience’s full range of senses including taste, touch and smell; and addressing the implications of the temporal nature of the live event, which can be retained only in memory. The performances often hover at the edge of visibility, creating an experience in which the viewer must stretch her or his perceptual capacities to their furthest limits.

She has been the recipient of numerous grants, including a Research Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, 1997; a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Theater Fellowship, 1994; an Artists’ Projects: New Forms Initiative Award, 1992, from the New England Foundation for the Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship in New Genres, 1991.

Her work has been reviewed in many publications including The New York Times (Dunning, 1994), Parachute (Todd, 1998), Text and Performance Quarterly (Anderson, 1994), Women and Performance Journal (Todd, 1996; Parker, 1988), P-Form (Askanas, 1998, 1994), New Art Examiner (Abell, 1992), and High Performance (Engstrom, 1991; Sparks, 1990; Miller, 1990; Perez, 1986; Pederson, 1986; Sommer, 1985).

She is a member (and the founder) of Mobius, Inc., a Boston-based collaborative of interdisciplinary artists. She taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for 27 years, establishing one of the most extensive programs internationally in visually-based performance art.

Writing
Meridian Performance Description

In May 2001, I celebrated my 50th birthday, and if I live to be 100, it could be considered my meridian year.

I performed this durational piece on June 21st, 2001. It was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and on Ward’s Island Beach in Toronto, Canada, that day started at 5:36 AM and ended at 9:02 PM, a total of 15 hours and 26 minutes. During that time, I answered questions concerning 100 years, moving from the past into the future, from 1951 to 2050, ranging from personal to global concerns.

Starting at the east end of the beach at sunrise, I moved progressively down the beach 100 times, or, 12 feet every 9 minutes, until I ended at the west end of the beach at sunset. I carried 100 smooth lake stones, a pen, a timer, a trowel, and a ball wound of gray ribbons. The questions were written on the ribbons, and so every 9 minutes I unfurled the next year’s questions and read them aloud.

More than one hundred questions were emailed to me in advance by friends, family and strangers, from Argentina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, England, Germany, Korea, Macedonia, Portugal, Taiwan, and the United States.

The audience on the beach assisted me in answering the questions, and lively and intimate discussions ensued, often between strangers. The audience, which ebbed and flowed throughout the day, was made up of people who knew of the event and others who happened upon it while walking on the beach.

When we finished answering the question, I tied the ribbon to the back of the chair. I then wrote a private message on one of the lake stones that I was carrying, and buried it in the sand at my feet. I trust that the 100 stones will eventually rise to the surface and be found.

Those who could not attend were asked to be there in spirit, and to pay attention to what they heard at the precise time that the question was answered on the beach. Did they hear the answer? They told me of their experiences in later correspondences.

Performance
Meridian by Marilyn Arsem

FADO presents Meridian, a new work by Boston artist Marilyn Arsem, presented as part of FADO’s ongoing Public Spaces / Private Places series.

Meridian will take place at the beach on the south side of Ward’s Island on the longest day of the year. Beginning at dawn and ending at sunset, the artist will follow the line of the sun, marking out a hundred years of time. Now in the 50th year of her own life, Arsem will use this solstice mid-point as an opportunity to take a considered look in both directions – back into the past and forward into the future. As she undertakes her measured progression along the beach, Arsem will recount the history of the last 50 years, and imagine the next 50 years. Audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions about specific years and enter into discussion with her as she buries the past and sows the future.


ARTIST STATEMENT by Marilyn Arsem, May 2001

In recent years I have been creating site-specific installations in outdoor locations in the United States, Europe and Asia. In each work I am responding to both the history of the site, as well as to the immediate landscape and materiality of the location. All of these recent works examine hidden worlds that lie beneath the surface, ones which lurk underground, and those which eventually decay and dissolve back into the earth.

I am particularly interested in implicating the audience directly in the concerns of the pieces. I use different strategies to design a very distinct role in the work for the viewer, so that they have an experience that is both visceral and intellectual. To accomplish this, I incorporate a range of media, including text, video and performance, as well as using materials and objects generated from and in response to the site.

I insert my installation into the site so that it is nearly invisible. The viewers’ initial impression is that there is nothing to see. It is only as they begin to pay closer attention that they become aware of the elements that I have hidden in the landscape. The audience must make an effort to discover the buried images, take time to assemble the fragments, use their intellect, often in discussion with other audience members, in order to decipher and construct meaning out of their experience.

The installations operate in a liminal space, blurring the boundaries between art and life. Because of the almost imperceptible images, and the inevitable intrusions of the real world, the viewers’ interpretation of the experience has as much to do with their own projections and concerns as it does with my own. In that respect, the work functions as a kind of Rorschach test, and the audiences’ response is a critical component of the final work. Documentation of their interpretation of the pieces reveals the collaboration between artist and audience in the construction of meaning.


Image © Marilyn Arsem, Meridian, 2001. Photo Paul Couillard.

Performance Yellow

This fragrance opens us to the question, has the show started? It's winter, the theatre is colder than the street and the room is filled with people and all their winter smells: wet faux leather, down, too much shampoo, and beer breath. The atmosphere is a trickster. Am I late, am I early?

Top Notes

yellow mandarin, mimosa

Middle Notes

honey, chamomile, salt

Base Notes

narcissus, guaiac wood, piss, beer