These words – “A novel inspired by Marina Abramovic” – on the cover of “The Museum of Modern Love” were all the reasons I needed to read this book.
Publishers: Allen & Unwin (2016)
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Fiction – Contemporary
What’s it about?
“The Museum of Modern Love” by Heather Rose traces the soul of Arky Levin, a film composer. Arky is separated from his wife, Lydia. She has asked him to keep a promise. And he does. So why is he troubled? In his restlessness, he wanders into the MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist Is Present.
The novel spans the 75 days in which Marina performed between the months of March and May of 2010. It goes through the seven phases of a project, as identified by Marina, being:
- The Gift
So it is that the lives (as projects) which intersect Arky and Marina’s eventual encounter are changed.
This is a story of love, and how we perform love every day.
Love accounted for so many things. A series of biological and chemical interactions, A bout of responsibility. An invisible wave of orality that had been romanticised and eternalised. A form of required connection to ensure procreation. A strategic response to prevent loneliness and maintain social structures.
When Lydia said, “[g]o and write. Make wonderful music. Know that I love you. Have no regrets” then shouldn’t Arky do what she has prescribed?
That is what Arky believes, until he is compelled to discover love’s true gift. And this compulsion is through the art of Marina, whose performance in the MOMA demonstrated the power of connection and the magic of “being seen” by another, beyond the material visibility that is reflected through the context of this novel – the New York rich and celebrities who came to sit with Marina.
This is a story of courage, Arky’s and the participants in “The Artist Is Present” with Marina; people at the crossroads, like Jane, who observes the performance then leaves wondering,
Had it been enough to sit on the sidelines? Had she somehow missed an opportunity for something life-changing, some act of courage?
The courage to not succumb to the should and ought of this world, to face the uncertainty of beginnings.
This is a story of connection – to our past, to each other in the present, and to the future. That we hold the history of us and humanity within us. How we are shaped by the convergence of our past, present and future.
Now, day after day, he looked into the human face, painted with curiosity, and he saw the abyss of history within a human heart. Everyone was its own beaten, salvaged, polished, engraved, carved luminous form.
A connection to our raison d’être – of being open and available to that which calls to us, soul-deep, and honouring it.
All that they are is stored up loud and insistent inside them. But what does it take to be an artist? They have to listen. But do they listen? Most people are filled up with a lifetime of noise and distraction that’s hard to get past.
If Arky’s life is a project, what is the gift? His to receive or to give?
Would I recommend it?
“The Museum of Modern Love” won the 2017 Stella Prize. A thought-provoking and enjoyable book definitely worth checking out!
My rating: 5/5
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