How little abstraction can art tolerate?

Milo Moiré’s performance during the exhibition The Naked Life at the LWL-Museum in Münster presented an encounter with artistic nudes of various kinds. Holding a naked baby in her arms, she visited the exhibition’s finissage with no clothes and wearing only high-heeled shoes. Without discussing her plans with the museum’s management, the two looked at the artworks in the galleries. As they did so, they met with visitors to the museum who, disturbed to varying degrees, were presumably asking themselves whether the naked woman with the child was a part of the exhibition.
Her performance questions our basic attitude towards abstract and figurative art. Isn’t a painting with realistic content actually an abstraction? Why do so many people have trouble looking at performance as art?

When Moiré heard about the exhibition for the first time, she asked herself: „What could be the absolute motif of an exhibition dedicated to the naked life, an exhibition which appeals to specific sensory experiences?“ Even after taking part in a curator’s tour at the museum, she felt certain that one particular subject was missing: a mother and her newborn child. The symbol of “bare life” must be pure intimacy between two people: naked and exposed, with an unconditional sense of security.


The artists from London exhibited in the show, including Bacon, Freud and Hockney, wanted to reintroduce the representational into art, and they were the polar opposite of the abstract painting coming out of the US at that time. They painted figures and depicted authentic situations from life.
In keeping with the approach of the artists exhibited, Milo Moiré brings everyday life to art. And yet, she goes one step further in removing herself from the abstract form of representation and shows her main motif of the naked life: A naked infant safe in the arms of a naked woman.

The Naked Life  

This direct confrontation with live nude art challenges others to reflect on familiar forms of perception. How close may a form of representation in art approach real life? Milo Moiré’s performance leaves this question within the realm of the museum: How little abstraction can art tolerate? Is it still art if it is real, that is, a genuine body? Isn’t the intellectual act of abstraction precisely what elevates the everyday into art?
The more approachable something is, the more mentally demanding it is to be able to see something else. Concept and context allow us to experience new sensual connections and can even provide the human body itself with the status of a found object. Moiré is not just an artist, she is also a cognitive psychologist who summarizes:  “What really counts is which meaning we fill the things with.”

The Naked Life