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Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present - Movie Review - 2012

Documenting the Performance of A Performance Artist

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Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present - Movie Review - 2012

Marina Abramovic in 'Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present'

Music Box Films
Marina Abramovic isn't a household name, yet her attention getting and controversial art work has garnered headlines. Marina is her own art, actually, and she is usually at the center of her installations. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present is a chronicling of one such exhibition. a major show at New York City's Museum of Modern Art.

Showing the Show

There were lines around the block made up of art lovers and those who were eager to see a show that was causing a sensation -- perhaps because it featured live nude men and women who stood facing each other in doorways between galleries where huge images of previous Abramovich works were installed on the walls. The live nudes were facing each other, standing still and expressionless, and in such close proximity to each other that the viewing public inadvertently brushed their bodies as they moved through the doorways single file.

But the main attraction was Abramovic, herself, who was positioned in the center of one large gallery. Dressed in intentionally nondescript garb, she was seated at a small wooden table. On the opposite side of the table was an empty wooden chair.

One by one, members of the viewing public sat in the empty chair, across from Abramovic and gazed into the artist's eyes. Nothing was said. There was no visible sign of acknowledgment or communication. The viewer could sit there or as long as she or he wished, and until ready to move on. The effect of the visit as often dramatic. Viewers became worshipful. Some broke into tears. Others seemed to be mesmerized, enchanted, in a daze. As this mystical transaction took place, other viewers stood on the sidelines, or sat on the floor, waiting patiently for their turn to approach and experience their moment with Marina. All of this is documented in the film, and it's interesting to watch. There are lots o questions that come to mind about what's happening between Marina and her audience. But the film gives no explanations. Instead, you are simply shown the events and, like those who paraded through the show, are free to form your own opinions Even more intriguing is following Marina around during the preparations for and installation o the exhibit. It' is a nerve wracking time for the artist and her evident anxiety sets the stage for the drama that takes place during the exhibit.

About The Artist

The film is as much a Marina Abramovic retrospective as the actual exhibit is. The artist's background -- her childhood in Yugoslavia, her early career and evolution as an artist -- is plumbed for events and anecdotes that can contribute to an understanding of her work, its importance and impact. There are revelations, too, about her personal life, and specifically about her celebrated artistic and personal partnership with fellow artist Ulay.

Knowing about this helps you to understand the great stir caused by Ulay's appearance at the exhibit, where Marina and he encountered each other for the first time in years -- and in a very public setting. No spoilers here. See the film to find out what happened between them. Art documentaries are of interest for art's sake, certainly. But many serve to track cultural trends, as well.

Marina Abramovic, herself, is so much the contemporary cultural phenomenon that she received a one woman show at the Museum of Modern Art, one that set records for attendance. But, little analysis is presented in the film. It just isn't there. But, it isn't much missed, either. Performance artist Marina Abramovich performance leading up to her appearance in the exhibit and during it is the essential sinew of this art documentary, and it's woven into a coherent and cohesive profile of a fascinating female artist.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
  • Director: Matthew Akers
  • US Theatrical Release Date: June 13, 2012, New York
  • Broadcast Premiere: July 2, 2012 (HBO)
  • Running Time: 106 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location: New York City and elsewhere
  • Language: English/li>
  • Distribution Company: HBO Documentary Filma and Music Box Films
  • Official Site

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