Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present Reviews
"The Artist Is Present" is a fascinating watch for both newcomers and Abramovi? admirers, giving us an inside look into the process of her 2010 exhibit of the same name while providing a background, or, an introduction, if you will, to her performing art past. Touching on her controversial "Rhythm" series of the 1970s and her artistic and personal relationship with Ulay, the documentary is as educational as it is emotionally satisfying. We can appreciate Abramovi?'s contributions to our culture just as much as we can connect with her as a vulnerable human being doing what they love.
Abramovi? has made a career out of using her body as means of artistic expression, testing her physical and intellectual limits on a regular basis. She has run into walls (for hours), cut, whipped and mentally disabled herself, exposed her naked body to the world - and yet, these are only a few characteristics of her long career (and vaguely detailed I might add). Abramovi?'s willingness to submit to inescapable pain for the sake of performing is startling. One might initially cast aside her experiments, considering them to be laughable, strange, perhaps even an excuse to commit self-harm. The documentary, though, adds a dimension unseen by most, making her projects all the more admirable.
"The Artist Is Present" has a plentiful number of interviews to add to our reverence, and goes just deep enough into Abramovi?'s past to give us a sort of idea as to why she does what she does. But the most enjoyable aspects of the documentary are not the clinical studies nor the final act, which focuses on the bewildering exhibit. Most gratifying is seeing Abramovi? behind the scenes, living as a normal woman, with a sense of humor, to boot, who just so happens to have a job most would never dream of. This is a hugely pleasurable documentary, yet I want more. I want to delve into Abramovi?'s unhappy childhood with more gusto, to get an even closer look into the mind-blowing years spent with Ulay. For now, though, this will have to do, and that isn't a bad thing.
Throughout her career, Abramovic has used her body as a canvas which might possibly shock some. Otherwise, her work reminds me a little of the work of Pina Bausch in being about the relationship between the genders which unlike the cheorographer is more about moving as little as possible. Well, except for the epic piece she did that involved the Great Wall of China. Who knows what the Chinese authorities thought of that?