I settled in for the screening of “Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present,” with the same skepticism I’d had when I went to see her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, which the film documents.
But I came away feeling chastened – mostly that I’d been so dismissive of Abramovic’s work when I saw it in person and didn’t take advantage of the chance to engage with it when I had it.
“The Artist is Present” chronicles the 2011 retrospective of Abramovic’s career as a performance artist that was installed at MoMA. It contained a look at Abramovic’s work of the past three decades – utilizing both video and photos of the old work and a group of new young assistants to recreate certain performance pieces. And it featured a new piece of Abramovic’s, in which she sat in a chair in the center of a gallery and locked eyes with whoever sat down opposite her.
Filmmaker Matthew Akers obviously had exceptional access to his subject. He begins filming her months before the exhibit, as she gathers her young assistants for a lengthy rural workshop in stillness: through yoga, Zen and whatever other forms of relaxation worked for them. They were to be the stand-ins for Abramovic in pieces that called for people to stand (or lie) nude in the galleries during the open hours.
This review continues on my website.