Sundance Review: Marina Abramovic The Artist Is Present

I really wanted to eat popcorn while watching the Marina Abramovic documentary (Marina Abramovic The Artist Is Present) just because it isn't often you are allowed to eat snacks in front of nude performance art and, as someone who has suffered through her fair share of such, I really wanted to revel in the spectacle in the absent way movie food allows! But, then again, people recently did pay thousands of dollars to eat cake in front of nude, Abramovic performers as they rotated about as centerpieces in a (stupidly) controversial fundraising event so maybe one day I will have another chance...? Anyway...this was one of the most well crafted documentaries I have ever seen!

 The music, the cinematography, the editing it all knew just when to swell, be picturesque and cut for the maximum effect, emotion and interest- beautiful filmmaking! As for the subject, the film follows Abramovich as she prepares for her retrospective at MoMA whose centerpiece, a new work titled The Artist Is Present, composed of her sitting in chair, motionless, for the entire duration of the 3month exhibit as audience members took turns sitting across from her gaze. Abramovic's work is an aggressive look at endurance, societal roles, pain, beauty and the intense spaces between people. She views herself as a canvas for others to reflect upon, her performances acting out some base desire on the part of the audience, leading to a critique of the audience and the world that has shaped them.

 I have never been a huge fan of the performance art genre (with very few exceptions, namely Chris Burden) and this film did not make me respect the genre any more or less...but, it did humanize the life and work of an aging art star and make this strange, complex artform (that is not the most accessible) into a striking, visually appealing, palatable portrait of an artist that I think everyone in the audience could somewhat relate to. From living in a van with her true love to gallavanting in Givenchy, Abramovich consistently lives out the dream of what many people think being an artist means: a lifestyle, work ethic, and soul portrayed in a masterful documentary. (And a special shout out to whoever was responsible for the ever so sly dissing of James Franco in the films editing! A++ And a thumbs down for the inclusion of David Blaine, D-)



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.