Marilyn Arsem's, Making Time

Because Marilyn Arsem’s recent performance at Nox Contemporary lasted nearly twelve hours it would seem inadequate to post a singular review with questions or comments. Afterall, no viewer (to my knowledge) observed the duration in earnest and instead, the work reveals more in the comings and goings of patrons. So what follows is an AM response and a PM response from two observers (Ashley Anderson & Leah Nelson). As more viewer responses trickle in the post will be updated to reflect that.

Leah Nelson views the piece after brunch:

As I walked into Nox Contemporary Gallery from the cold and snow, this is the scene I encountered: Marilyn Arsem standing, arms on a chair, back toward the viewers. Lots of white: two white chairs touching each other facing on the diagonal; Arsem dressed in a white linen top, long skirt, white socks; white powder on the floor of the “performance space”; nothing on the walls; leftover tracks from moving two chairs in what looked like white flour on the floor. And three viewers sitting in chairs watching and writing.

As Arsem started to move from her slightly hunched position with hands on a chair, it became clear that she would do endless circles around these two chairs. The previous tracks indicated that this might be an ongoing cycle, first of moving the chairs forward, then circling around them.

A snippet in the gallery told me that Arsem does not decide what she’ll perform until she arrives at the space, and that her performance is influenced by the history and culture of the place she’s visiting (in this case, Salt Lake City, UT). This perspective gave me a point of reference while watching this moving installation of sorts called “Marking Time”. It made me wonder how it affected my viewing, considering that until I read that snippet, I was not quite seeing much of anything, other than a person, place, and setting. This new information got me questioning more- was the white to signify purity or the snow, and is there some comment here on continuing to plod through, doing the same thing over and over again? Well, I’m sure there is, but I felt a little out of the loop. Maybe I should’ve stayed longer, or maybe it just didn’t click.

It did seem to click with an older friend of mine, who one might call a Jack Mormon. She saw a lot in that small space in time: Arsem was an angel and the chairs represented a union of sorts. But this union wasn’t working, and the angel was trying to progress this union, probably with no avail (although we did not see the end of the piece). I guessed that my friend was able to “see something” because of her different perspective (she’s lived in Salt Lake for most of her life and I barely just settled here). But maybe when I see something I just feel something or I don’t. And that’s okay with me. I will still go see art in the making because who knows, I could have the experience that my friend had, and it would’ve gotten me thinking more.

Ashley Anderson views the piece after teaching all morning:

I arrived at Nox after teaching many classes for dancers with special needs. While one of my favorite things to do I will say my mind was a flurry with activity. I stood outside for a long time on a call, unaware that it was likely disturbing the quiet inside the intimate gallery space. Walking in the space, and my awareness, was immediately transformed. In the lobby I saw the audience peering through a small doorway to the world Marilyn had created for “Making Time.” I also saw two leftover bags of flour and I confirmed with John, the gallery owner, that this is what coated the floor.

In a way this was a performance. But in another way I instantaneously saw the trajectory of the performer even though she was still. I could see in the tracks that the chairs she sat in were dragged forward and circled around. I could see there was endless flour that might mark this path for hours to come. I saw it as contemplative. I saw it as an open system I could ponder.

My one regret was not following more of my instincts. I have a feeling I could have shouted “thanks Marilyn” before leaving and she might have heard me. I wanted nothing more than to walk through the flour and sit beside her to see from a new vantage point. I did neither of those things because everyone around me seemed very formal and thoughtful. But I think I should have done it and I’m sad that I didn’t. There was, after all, no barrier or guide telling me to act a certain way.