Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
To call Matthew Akers’ debut feature about the pioneering performance artist Marina Abramovic powerful, to me, would be a giant understatement. This might mostly be due to its hypnotizing subject, followed by Akers as she prepares for a retrospective at MoMA (which occurred in 2010). Her performance there involved sitting motionless (completely “present”) for every minute that the museum was open for three months, mutely facing the gaze of every patron who lined up to sit across from her.
Akers builds a case for Abramovic’s influential and extreme body of ‘70s and ‘80s work, often in intense collaborations with Dutch performance artist Ulay. Akers films her reunion with Ulay before the show, her training of thirty younger artists for concurrent performances of her past work, and her preparation for her own extremely ambitious piece spanning the whole retrospective.
The film’s second half is an extraordinarily moving look at the performance itself, which probably should be considered a masterpiece. Akers captures the enormous tension and power generated by Abramovic’s piece with a dynamic montage that lays bare the amazing conceptual clarity of the piece, the intensity of the artist – being pushed to her limits perhaps more than ever – and the individuals staring back at her.