The Artist Is Present concerns ‘the grandmother of performance art’ Marina Abramovic, mapping her canon from the early 70s and culminating with her mammoth MoMa exhibition from which the film takes its name.
For anyone who views performance art as the airy-fairy and self-indulgent forays of privileged university graduates with too much time and not enough sense, The Artist Is Present will set them straight.
The piece shows how Abramovic’s pioneering and radical works expose the endurance and commitment to art that any performer should possess.
For instance, the Rhythm series of ‘73/74 depict Abramovic speedily jabbing kitchen knives between her splayed fingers, taking strong psychiatric medicines, lying inside a flaming five-point star, and putting herself at the mercy of the audience by presenting a range of weapons and objects with which they can choose to use upon her person.
At 63, she is still as daring and radically open, for The Artist… she sat silent and motionless in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2010, with nothing but an empty chair facing her, ready to be filled by anyone, for as long as they can take it.
Punters stared into her eyes, laughed, and cried before her eight hours a day, six days a week, for three months.
The Artist… unwraps the enigma of Abramovic’s work ethic, ethos, and personal life, providing a window into the world of one of the art world’s most complex and fascinating protagonists.