Marina Abramovic – The Artist Is Present
A moving documentary by Matthew Akers – so moving it won Panorama Audience award just yesterday – follows Marina Abramovic, pioneer of performance art, as she prepares for the most important performance celebrating her career so far – The Artist Is Present at MoMA, New York.
A retrospective at MoMA is the most exhilarating milestone for any living artist, and Marina decided to mark hers by …being there herself throughout the whole opening time of the exhibition, 14th March to 31th May in 2010, sitting on a chair all day without eating, drinking or even changing position. Never drawing a distinction between art and life, it is only logical that this seductive, fearless, outrageous and controversial Yugoslavian chose to actually become her self-portrait and be the making of her own myth. Any of the visitors could have encountered her eye to eye, and spent as much time as they wanted sitting on a chair in front of her.
The exhibition quickly became extremely popular, with visitors queuing up to 20 hours to face the controversial performer, and often bursting into tears straight away influenced by the gravity of this intense experience. For Marina herself, it was a chance to finally announce performance art as a legitimate mainstream practice; after 40 years of facing skepticism about the artistic merit of her work, she says she’s tired of the ‘alternative’ label: ‘I’m 63! I don’t want to be alternative anymore!’
The film itself – for which to make both MoMA and Marina granted total access – weaves interviews with her collaborators, commentators, friends, fans and husbands together with the archival footage of Abramovic’s early works. The documentary is by a large part a glorification of her image, and some interesting moments of her preparation, precise difficulties of sitting in the same position for three months and casual disruptions of performance are left in the margins in order not to pollute the illusion, or destroy the emotional effectiveness of the film. However, it is interesting for showing how the stardom of the artist affects some people, and what a phenomenal reaction direct contact with the star elicits.
If you know little about performing, or about Marina herself – watch this film, it will show you the power of art and change your understanding of it.