By Krista Bell, KW|AG Volunteer
Emotionally and intellectually potent–Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present takes a retrospective look at the 40-year career and personal life of the captivating woman who calls herself the ‘grandmother of performance art’. Directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre, the documentary not only speaks to those familiar with the art scene, but also engages with anyone who has ever asked these questions: “what is art?” and “why is this art?”
Bold, vulnerable, and provocative, Marina Abramovic at 63, remains unabashed in her approach to performance art. The documentary succeeds in framing Marina’s journey to legitimize performance art while she questions and pushes boundaries surrounding definitions of art itself. Through her work, we observe that art is an umbrella term, a discourse, which asks questions, activates audiences, and discovers new possibilities through the appropriation of corporeal and psychological representations.
Known for her extreme works, Marina has exposed both her mental and physical being to severely compromising conditions. The film reveals clips from her past works involving instances where she has whipped, bruised, lacerated, drugged, and burned herself in front of a live audience. As expected, the radical and sensual nature of Abramovic’s performances attracts a fair amount of publicity, but her work is more than just sensationalist.
The centerpiece of the documentary is Marina’s 2010 exhibit at the MoMA. The Artist is Present includes tributes to her old works; however, the attention rests on Marina’s newest work. For three months, all day, each day of the show, Abramovic endures to sit on a single chair under a spotlight across from a self-elected audience member who must also sit and stare at her in silence, without overt gesture. Here, Abramovic tests the relationship between herself and her audience. While she sits for hours upon hours torturing herself without breaks, her objective is to transfer her enlightened energy through an intimate exchange of gazes. This sacred communion relies on an interplay of power and vulnerability, leaving many of the participants in tears (check out these images of participants on Flickr).
Even through the big screen, Abramovic provides her audience with a profound and cathartic experience. Bring an open mind and an open heart as you decide whether her performance art is neurotic or brilliant, self-indulgent or altruistic, absurd or meaningful.
Next show times at the Princess Cinema: July 16 at 6:45 pm and July 17-18 at 9:00 pm.