Matthew Akers’ compelling portrait shows this gorgeous 63-year-old performance artist’s journey from violent early works to her sell-out new work: silently sitting and encountering her audience.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2012
If you’re not already a fan of Marina Abramović, prepare to become one. Matthew Akers’ compelling portrait catches the stunning, Givenchy-wearing 63-year-old at the height of her career as she prepares for her 2010 MoMA retrospective. Abramović has been at the vanguard of performance art for 40 years. This mammoth exhibition requires her to train young artists to perform her early work (they learn through fasting, silence and meditation) as well as create a major new piece, The Artist Is Present. Half of the film is devoted to this extraordinary new work, in which Abramović sits silently for three months, available for the public to individually encounter her. The performance captured the imagination of the art world (check out Wellingtonian Pippin Barr’s online computer game version). The film offers a unique overview of the event: 750,000 people (including former lovers and collaborators) queued up for their moment with Marina; we see their tears, their anger, their desire to ‘connect’. How can such a simple act of availability mobilise such intensity of response?
The origins of Abramović’s physical endurance and the impetus for her work are easily discernible: she was born to communist parents in the former Yugoslavia. (Her early works include cutting her naked body with knives, whipping and asphyxiation.) The film reveals the incredible determination behind Abramović’s efforts to ‘bring the audience and performer to the same state of consciousness, here and now’. The camera lingers over her weary but lucid face with breathtaking intimacy, bringing us right into the heart of the experience and leaving us in no doubt as to its power and significance. — JR