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Reflections on "The Artist is Present"

Last night, our MSLOC coaching group watched a video clip about Marina Abramovic’s performance art piece “The Artist is Present” for the second time. We watched for data relating to the artist and various visitors as well as Marina’s ex-lover Ulay and observed the stories that were forming in our minds. I had many thoughts that went through my head during our session and afterwards.

It occurred to me that when I saw the clip for the first time, my mind was occupied with the concept of performance art. Art made with and by the artist’s body, drawing the “visitor” in with its rawness becoming one with the experience and connecting with the artist. Watching the clip the second time I was much more able to observe and gather the data we wanted to gather and embrace Marina’s art. The experience of doing something for the second time reminded me of Adam Grant’s Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know encouraging us to think like a scientist and re-evaluate what we see and think. In our world of “once and done” of consuming one thing and rushing to the next, rethinking or re-reading a book, re-watching a movie, or re-evaluating one’s beliefs helps me on my journey of life-long learning.

The second significant take-away for me was the intensity of observing the non-verbal communication between Marina and her visitors. It was all there was. There was no distraction. There was nothing said verbally that would need my attention to understand it and respond in one way or the other. How can I now learn to multi-task and take in the non-verbal data in a coaching conversation together with the verbal communication data? Multi-tasking is really switching from one thing to the other, sometimes quite fast and back and forth. Multi-tasking is not my strength; I like to concentrate on one thing, finish it and move to the next. I will try to improve my listening multi-tasking by consciously training myself to switch back and forth to ensure I participate in the full conversation, with its verbal and non-verbal elements.

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