On Being Hilarious with Marina Abramovic

It is 30 hours before I consume something for the first time since the last bite I ate: a single stick of sugar-free gum I accept on our way to the diner, even though it is late. We aren't looking for food, just somewhere to go sit and talk. The diner charges a $5 minimum if you want to sit, and because they are not open late we have 15 minutes. Cash only, by the way. We order coffee, I ask for mine decaf. An egg with a side of butter later and I have met my minimum. I can stay.

Neither of us are too familiar with the area and neither of us have all night to go find a bar for dissecting our thoughts about what we just heard tonight. The Upper East Side of Manhattan is a strange grid of streets either brimming with clusters of cafés and clubs or consignment shops and antique dealers and couture. Paralleled and bisecting here are empty streets of townhouses with expensive art inside (as you know), façades of where Carrie Bradshaw had lived for $750 a month. But then again, she didn't have email. She didn't have a cell phone. She didn't have technology or global access to information until HBO couldn't not give it to her - and then for free. The only way to get to Carrie Bradshaw is using her unlisted landline number, if she's even home. Her sex column is circulated only in a small print, but her financial situation is never dire - she is only ever a credit card charge away from freedom. She does not let herself become a prisoner to making less income than her financially-endowed best friends. She does not seek out higher-paying work nor supplement with another low-paying job, nor would she dare to think of selling any of her possessions, which she does not stop herself from ever buying. How can a local print columnist be paid enough to treat luxury as a commonplace lifestyle in which settling for less is not an option? How can being a writer really pay all the bills and still allow for a love of materialism to always materialize?

Carrie Bradshaw can be happy living alone on the Upper East Side because she has everything today's generalized advice teaches a woman to desire: a body lithe and toned yet generously feminine without the need for exercise or maintenance or implants; a closet stuffed with expensive garments and shoes and the unabashed sense of pride to wear anything on any day; the comfortably large apartment for herself that never seems to accumulate more than it can tidily hold; the connections to stay afloat of all the newest culture in Manhattan; the endless ability to only and always take a taxi; the reliable best friends who strengthen her personal wisdom and never let her feel lonely or unappreciated or insincere; the job that fits her ultimate creative goals and is flexible enough that she never needs to compromise the hourly quality of her life from Monday through Friday through Sunday every week.

Carrie Bradshaw has her flaws too, of course, and smoking will kill her.

Tonight we are on the Upper East Side not because of Sex and the City but because of Marina Abramovic. Nobody came between us, no body was between our bodies and the artist who was present. We too want to be artists but tonight we were only ears and faces.

Marina tells us about her life from the beginning. She tries to find the English words to describe the story of her birth into the world. She says her mother "broke the motor giving birth to me." She says her mother's "water broke down." I stay with this idea all night: to be a water that breaks when a new form emerges. I want to be a water mechanism.

Her mother, the machine who broke down, was "intellectually communist." Because her parents were both war-torn romantics, they married to be saviors but later realized that they came from very different backgrounds and values. Her mother, the broken motor, was "born capitalist." The marriage, it was "just good idea for her."

Carrie Bradshaw does not take public transportation, unless it is a yellow cab. She will not travel to Brooklyn and can only leave Manhattan happily if her destination is Los Angeles, Paris, or the Hamptons. These are the only other places where her intellect is expected to capitalize.

"I'm getting claustrophobic," Marina says of Earth. "Ancient cultures are incredibly beneficial."

Carrie Bradshaw has never used Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Drive, or Google Images.

Marina says she lived with her parents until she was 29 years old. While living in their home she remained the dutiful daughter, not the respectful other guest, and so she had to schedule all her performances before 10 at night. Marina asks why the good girls from good families go to bed at five o'clock in the afternoon. She says it is because they have to be home by ten.

"I dedicate this," Marina says about her latest writing, "to my friends and my enemies."
I feel a heat in my head, like the ringing in your ears when you have heard the story before.
Marina says she had the help of a ghost writer to transcribe and edit her words. She says so many of her friends become enemies, and so many of her enemies become friends.

Not once has Carrie Bradshaw ever visibly lost any friends, but plenty of women pop up as old acquaintances who have no existence after their screen-time. Carrie Bradshaw never speaks to anyone in her family. Carrie Bradshaw does not have a history except for what has been caught on tape.

Marina talks about the bodydrama. She says the bodydrama starts at the end of an event, when the lights come back up. Pop stars and entertainers with large audiences experience their own bodydrama, but it is not clear from where this strange affect begins. Marina says the bodydrama is the energy to control as a performer's medium. Does the perfomer control the viewers or do the viewers enable the controller's power? Is feedback locked into a loop of give and take in order to remove the space that otherwise appears between body and drama?

Carrie Bradshaw never goes on a diet. She loves pasta, pizza, chocolate, salad, wine, cocktails, coffee, and water.

Marina wants to be inspiring.

Is Carrie Bradshaw happy with who she is?

"If I can make it, then you can make it," Marina says. She says to just do it. She says it is not the artist's responsibility to convince others she is not crazy. "I want to be hilarious," Marina says.

Carrie Bradshaw makes a career out of writing about her sex life and is recognized by both her name and her face. She never falls from the grace of her Manolo Blahnik heels and she is never disrupted in her private life by her public newspaper column's honest tell-alls. She is neither embarrassed nor suffering from her art. She does not receive fanmail nor followers, but she writes about what she does not understand and she collects a paycheck for it every time. She is paid to question the fiction that is her life.

Marina is working with engineers to create a holographic avatar of herself to travel the world. Why need to show up in a gallery to perform when you can produce an exact image of yourself? Why be when you can be projected? Her poor mother, the machine who broke down. Why not instead be a mirage?

To live in New York City is to live in your own world unlike anyone else's. The possibilities of where to go and what to do never cease to lessen in options or diminish in values. Storefronts may shutter and restaurants may fail but it only adds to the ecosystem of Manhattan's own infinity. The power in deciding to let some in and keep others out is the Möbius strip given to each person as a medium. No body, no drama, only endless choices to make. 

Lifestyle is an artform. Carrie Bradshaw is a gallery. Marina says the two questions an artist should always be asking are when to start working and how to die.