Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

Marina Abramovic's work is confrontational, compelling, powerful, and often uncomfortable to bear at times, but she is incredible at what she does. She is confidently seductive and her body is her medium; with it she puts herself to test after test, challenging what exactly it means/requires to make performance art.

This film was an appropriate (though slightly intimidating) introduction for our class, and I am half dreading/half looking forward to completing the assigned exercises, and I appreciate the fact that these exercises were devised and required by Marina at her workshop presented in the film. As for her performance, The Artist is Present, for me, one of the most vital (and most mysterious) things about the piece were the moments in between sitters, where she would bow her head and meditatively close her eyes in preparation for the next sitter...I would like to know the variety of things she was thinking or feeling in those transitory seconds. It is also beautiful how she treated each sitter with equally compassionate attention.  However, the piece was not about her, although it could easily be perceived that way, especially because it was the main piece in the retrospective show about her life and performances up until that point. Instead, the piece was about the sitters, at Marina's tolling expense...her part in the performance is undoubtedly something very few people could accomplish. Although we only saw a recording of the performance and were not able to personally participate in the performance, it was obvious that the sitters were able to gaze upon themselves through the action of sharing a gaze with Marina--she mentions this in the film--and this, in addition to the longevity of the piece and her persistence to complete the piece, is what elevates the performance to a really respectable level.

Questions I had after the movie: It seems particular to have a retrospective of performance art, art that in its very nature is ephemeral and temporal. How does the context change when other people are enacting the performances originally done by Marina? What does it mean to re-perform and re-visit performances that already had an established time and place?

After we watched the film I found this article online about her retrospective show at MoMA in New York, pretty interesting:

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