Last year my family had a rather profound experience at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Performance artist Marina Abramovic began each morning sitting across a table, staring at any patron of the museum who wanted to sit in the chair across from her. The piece was called “The Artist Is Present”. She repeated this activity everyday MOMA was open for three months.
To the casual observer it looked quite unusual. Who is this woman? All she is doing is sitting there, all day, staring. Is this art or a practical joke?
But as people began gathering around, watching, themselves engaged, it was apparent to the thoughtful person that something special was happening. The Artist Was Present.
Throughout MOMA’s galleries are opportunities to see Monet’s Water Lillies, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. All are objects to be viewed, reminders that the artist had once lived, and once created, artifacts proving perhaps their existence, but the Artist was not there; In most cases deceased. Not present.
But out in MOMA’s atrium, Marina Abramovic WAS present. She had no paintings, no objects to show, nothing to say, nothing to give, except for her presence. And she was present all day. She never took a break to go to the bathroom or to eat lunch. She just sat, willing to be present with anyone who wished to sit across from her, and they could stay as long as they liked.
As I watched people pull up a chair it was fascinating to see people respond to Marina’s penetrating eyes and peaceful presence.
Some, couldn’t handle the moment and immediately stood up and walked away.
For others there time in the chair became a stare down challenge, putting up their defenses, so they would not be seen for who they were.
Some wept, having had the experience of being present with someone in a way they had not in some time, or ever.
And then there were the lurkers who watched along the perimeter, not wanting to risk being in the chair, only to tell the story of what they saw, but never actually having the experience themselves.
We hope that during your time at the National Youth Workers Convention that you will stop, pull up a chair, and take time to be present with God and the other youth workers that attend.
Sure you can read books about youth ministry, watch a live stream of the conference or download the recordings after the fact. But there is something incredible about being present. We hope you will join us.
And think about being present today. I’m going to be present with my teenage kids right now. Who needs your presence today?
PS. Speaking of presence I’m travelling through several cities this September because I think it’s important to be together with people in physical space. Amazing things happen when God’s people come together, will you join us in a city near you? Click here for more information.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.