Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Time Out says
This HBO doc draws us into the world of Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic as she prepares for her 2010 show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Abramovic is known for embracing danger and endurance (anyone for running a pin over their cornea?). It’s the latter that this film dwells on, culminating with the 65-year-old’s ten-week-long MoMA performance in which she sits still on a chair in front of hundreds of visitors who come before her, one after the other, day in, day out. (She goes home at night, though, for a bath and a massage.)
It’s a behind-the-scenes portrait punctuated with gripping archive footage of past performances: try not to wince as her ex-partner Ulay draws a bow, complete with arrow, inches from her chest. It tails off a little as we observe the show, but before then there’s a compelling section about her 12-year relationship with Ulay, who comes back into her life: scenes of them driving and bickering are tender and amusing, and it’s a powerful moment when Ulay joins her during the MoMA performance.
Abramovic is raw and likeable, if mostly inscrutable. The film raises questions about how such a radical performer can maintain the purity and immediacy of her work alongside fame and within the context of a major retrospective: while she performs on one floor of MoMA, surrounded by guards and faced with fans, on another floor younger artists recreate past works. We’re party, too, to chats with her entourage about how she should manage perceptions: ‘I’m 63, I don’t want to be alternative again,’ she says, and later her gallerist persuades her it’s a bad idea to allow David Blaine (who we see eating a wine glass) to muscle in on her parade. This is illuminating and inspiring.