DIRECTORS Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre
This fascinating documentary charts the career of Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović, culminating in her 2010 exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art where she sat motionless for three months while the public took turns to sit opposite her. Informative and engaging thanks to Abramović’s witty, unpretentious presence, this is an intriguing and moving insight into the world of performance art. (2012 USA 106 minutes)
Seductive, fearless, and outrageous, Marina Abramovic has been redefining what art is for nearly forty years. Using her own body as a vehicle, pushing herself beyond her physical and mental limits, at times risking her life in the process, she creates performances that challenge, shock and move us. Through her and with her, boundaries are crossed, consciousness expanded and art as we know it is reborn. She is, quite simply, one of the most compelling artists of our time.
BBFC advice: Contains images of physical harm in a performance art context
"In one of those odd-seeming consequences cinema nevertheless regularly turns up, Willem Dafoe narrated a piece called The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, premiering in Manchester last year. While he stars on screen in The Hunter this week, she is now the subject of an excellent documentary about the staging of her own retrospective show, The Artist Is Present, at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2010.
For that show, she sat for seven and half hours, every day, for three months, on a chair, without food or water, gazing into the eyes, expressionless, of audience members and visitors who sat opposite her, gazing back. It was a staring contest of the sort kids do in the playground, but performed with utter seriousness and solemnity in one of the world's great galleries. How, asks the documentary, was this art?
Matthew Akers's fascinating film ponders not only the nature and validity of performance art but paints a somewhat hagiographic portrait of Abramovic as the movement's "grandmother". Charismatic and beautiful at 64, the daughter of two national heroes of General Tito's Yugoslavia, Marina began her career in 1970s Belgrade – where many considered her insane – and continued when she met Ulay, another performance artist, in Amsterdam. The pair began a series now dubbed The Relation Works, examining the pain, power and physicality of love and coexistence. "I fell in love with her when I saw her cut a pentagram in her stomach with a razor blade," recalls Ulay.
If their affair were ever made into a movie, Marina would be played by Anjelica Huston and Ulay by Jeremy Irons. "Theirs is one of the world's great love stories," opines the very cool, eloquent and English-born Whitney Museum curator Chrissie Iles; and this documentary certainly probes that part of Abramovic's life with great thoroughness, even engineering a reunion between the pair.
It is just one of many great scenes in an exhilarating, elegantly executed film that holds a mirror up to the art world, its protagonists and its devotees, forcing us to question the whole circus."
UK RELEASE 6 July 2012
RUNNING TIME 106 minutes
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