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I recently went to see the exhibition The Mystery of Tears at the MAC Belfast. This exhibition ‘explores themes of grief, loss, love, longing and loneliness that embody intimate human relations’. The exhibition is a revealing and intimate exhibition showcasing the feelings and emotions behind tears and crying. I found this exhibition to be a very interesting one. There were aspects of it that I loved and in contrast there were aspects of it that I really could not connect with at all. Some of the exhibits left me with a feeling of bewilderment and confusion and I honestly felt quite puzzled by their meanings and significance. I think that an exhibition like this is powerful in its ability to create conversations and discussion and leave the viewer with questions. The exhibition featured many different artists, Jesper Just, Marco Anelli, Salla Tykkä, Sophie Calle, Bill Viola and Bas Jan Ader. 

I am going to focus on the two artists that moved me most. Firstly, there was the exhibition entitled The Artist is Present by photographer and artist Marco Anelli.  This work was a collection of photographs of people who had taken part in the performance piece. The performance piece was carried out in MOMA where artist, Marina Abramovic, sat for 736hours and 30minutes in a gallery space and invited visitors to become part of the exhibit and sit opposite her and look at her. Abramovic placed herself in a position of vulnerability and it was fascinating to see how people reacted to her. The exhibition that I viewed was a snap shot of her time performing at MOMA. It featured images of some of the participants on the verge of tears. Anelli aimed to show that moment just before you started to cry. It was so beautuifully done that I found myself whilst peering at these images on the verge of tears myself. I think art that can create such a physical response is so important. It is not often that I will look at a photograph and find myself being moved. Anelli’s work is so emotive and I would recommend that anyone who has the time to check out this original and fascinating exhibition, do so.

The other collection that captured my attention was The Last Image by Sophie Calle. This exhibit tells the story of people who have lost their sight and what the last image they saw was. I found this quite moving and found myself feeling a sense of despair and empathy at the meer thought of losing my sight. The stories capture the reasons behind the loss of sight whether in a gradual way or through a violent incident. This collection was the one that stayed with me the most and I have found myself returning to this concept of the loss of sight many times since. This exhibition really made me think. How would I cope without my sight and how would I feel to have my last image be that of someone who had taken my sight. The way people react to this collection shows our reliance on sight and the way we rarely think about how life would be without it.

The whole collection of works was extremely diverse. Some of the other artists that contributed took a very different approach to the concept of tears. Bas Jan Ader, I’m too sad to tell you was a video installation of a man weeping. This installation has no sound and it is just with our eyes that we can engage with this piece. This work for me was quite hard to relate too. I didn’t fully understand what the artist was trying to do and I found myself unable to connect with the piece.

The Mystery of Tears is definitely worth visiting. It is an intriguing collection of very diverse artist’s work and will leave you questioning the very notion of why we cry and what this act may mean. I would recommend that anyone who has the time should take the opportunity to visit the MAC to experience all that this exhibition has to offer.

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