In June of 1977, Marina Abramovic performed a work entitled Imponderabilia with her partner Ulay. In a video recording of the work, Abramovic described Imponderabilia this way: “We are standing naked in the main entrance of the Museum, facing each other. The public entering the Museum have to pass sideways through the small space between us. Each person passing has to choose which one of us to face.”
This performance allows audiences to participate in the event in a performative and improvisatory manner, as “actors” themselves: neither as “spectators”, as passive viewers, nor as “agents”, acting in a preconceived or instrumental way. The audiences reactions were not rehearsed and thus what we see is an instantaneous and authentic peek into human behavior and how gender roles plays an important part in society.
It is interesting to note that more participants chose to face Marina as opposed to Ulay. I’m not certain if facing one or the other is a telling sign of one’s psyche, but it is apparent that Marina appears to be less intimidating in stature. It could also be noted that most participants split-second decision was to follow the direction of the person who passed immediately before them whichever the gender may be.
When visitors become aware that physical contact is inevitable; and have to choose to face one and turn their back against the other, they at least chose to refrain from making eye contact. We can contrast these conscious real life decisions with the ones made in the remake of Imponderabilia on a multiuser virtual environment, Second Life reenacted by Eva and Franco Mattes.
The only modification made in this reenactment is that the door frame they stood in did not lead into a museum; in fact, it didn’t lead anywhere at all. As seen in the remake, some participants on Second Life removed their clothing prior to stepping in between Eva and Franco. The performance raises questions that has the potential to highlight humanity through digitalised bodies or avatars. Because the performance weaves the technological environment and the body together, we can see that the performance “emerges as a site for examination and experimentation of the interconnected relationships between bodies and technologies”.
When online, people are not accountable for their actions and their actions bear little to no repercussions. They would dare and have the courage to react in such a manner only when semi-anonymous. I feel people can truly be someone totally different online than they are in real life, hence, I doubt the people who stripped would actually react that way when faced with such a situation. Modern technology has given us the ability to defy the physical bounds of identity and manipulate it in any way we choose without the demands of real world accountability.
As electric media proliferate, whole societies at a time become discarnate, detached from mere bodily or physical “reality” and relieved of any allegiance to or a sense of responsibility for it.
– Steve Dixon, Virtual Bodies, 2007
In conclusion, there is an increasing acceptance in society that the “self” can exist apart from the “body” in online activities as fragments – not only are selves separate from the body, they are not limited and determined by the mind’s entertainment in the body. Potentially, the “body” can simultaneously exist in two realities internally and externally experiencing and being experienced. Thus, body is a mere instrument in our happy immersion in cyberspace; the very idea of a mind and body split.