Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (4 stars)

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

A luminous and life-affirming documentary about the Serbian performance artist

While visiting New York’s Museum of Modern Art in May 2010, I found Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic sitting opposite me. She was in the middle of the performance piece, which gives Matthew Akers’ documentary film its title, sitting silently for over 700 hours opposite a series of members of the general public.

Experienced as a piece of art, Abramovic’s performance was disconcerting, disturbing and ultimately moving, and the same also can be said for Akers’ documentary, although they work in very different ways. Akers’ film provides a helpful crib-sheet as to Abramovic’s career, featuring often shocking clips of her controversial earlier work some of which involves self-mutilation, and including interviews with her former husband Ulay. There’s also revealing behind-the-scenes footage involving New York glitterati who get involved with her performance, including James Franco and David Blaine.

While some of Abramovic’s work might sound a bit hard-going, the context provided by Akers’ film makes it surprisingly accessible, while the real stars turn out to be the audience, whose natural, unguarded reactions to Abramovic give this film a transcendent, luminous and ultimately life-affirming quality.

Selected release from Fri 6 Jul.

Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present Trailer

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Matthew Akers
  • Cast: Marina Abramovic, Ulay, Klaus Biesenbach
  • UK release: 6 July 2012

Akers' documentary about Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic offers a helpful crib-sheet to her career. There are revealing interviews and some shocking clips of her earlier work, some of which involves self-mutilation; but Akers' film manages to make the artist's disconcerting and disturbing work seem accessible…

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