July 13

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

What do you do when you ask two friends, both serious readers, for reading recommendations and they simultaneously suggest the same book? I’ll tell you what you do….you get off your ass and go get it. You don’t start editing your facebook profile or sign up to a new streaming service; you reserve your spot on the couch and get reading.

Now that I’m finished reading the book they both recommended, my next question is…how did I not get onto this one when it when it was first released in 2017?  I mean what kind of a useless book blogger am I?  Obviously, that is a rhetorical question.

The Museum of Modern Love is a story about the power of art.

Tasmanian author, Heather Rose, wrote the book over 11 years after she participated in a work of performance art called “The Artist is Present” by Marina Abramović at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010. The entire story is built around this real artist and critically acclaimed event that involved people simply sitting face to face and looking into the eyes of the artist over a period of 75 days. With queues lined up every day and over 850,000 attendees in total (including Heather Rose), no one expected the work to be as successful and impactful as it was. Documentaries were made and it even got a mention in Sex and the City. 

In a stealthy merging of fact and fiction (which included securing permission from Marina Abramović to use her as a character), Rose tells the story of various audience members who participated in or watched the performance and how it affected them. One key character, Arky, is a New York-based film composer who has been separated from his wife in tragic circumstances. As the performance unfolds, so does he. Another character, Jane, is an art teacher who finds comfort in the daily ebbs and flows of the performance as she grieves the recent loss of her husband. Both Arky, Jane and the many others around them are transported by the profound simplicity and fearlessness of this work of art.

With meticulous research, emotional curiosity and a tender touch, there are lots of reasons to recommend this book. Aside from being a great read, it is a wonderful tribute to a controversial artist and a reminder of art’s power to affect us all.

Heather Rose has written other beautiful books including Bruny (2019) and won her fair share of prizes.  Thank you to my friends who prodded me in the direction of The Museum of Modern Love. No more questions from me.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.