Overview: I have been pondering this film now for a few days. Somehow, I knew I would. When noting its subject matter I knew it would not be “cut and dry.” Matters never are when you are dealing with art, especially, when you are dealing with modern art and specifically here with performance art. It is simply because art is in the eye of the beholder. Now I am not here to go off on this too deeply, though I thought about it deeply. This is not an Art Blog. This is HBOWatch. I simply leave you with my impression of the subject matter and possibly intrigue some to seek it out on HBO.
Expectation: Marina Abramovic is a performance artist. That means she uses her body as the medium for which she expresses her art. My expectations going into this film were simple. They were to learn who she is, learn what her performance art consists of, whether not I like her art or not and to see what others see in her art.
Gut Reaction: First, this film is creatively constructed. It easily spells out all the elements required to give a thorough examination of the person and the art in question. All my expectations of what information I wanted out of it came forth. Viewers quickly learn in this film what type of person Marina A. is. She is charismatic, dramatic, and speaks in such a way that you want to lean in and catch every word. It is as if, even in casual life, she is performing. She proves, even in this filmed piece, that she is an interesting person and would be even if she were just a sheep farmer. That essence clearly bodes well for an artist.
Then, there is the question of art. Is running naked into a concrete pillar at a subway stop art? Is spinning in a circle until you are so dizzy you can’t stand up art? I leave those decisions up to you, but for myself I had no problem calling what I saw as artistic expression. There are many who would argue that such antics are not. Marina Abramovic has had a lifetime of creating art with her body for decades This documentary shows the time was right for a retrospective of her work in the minds of the artist, her managers and the artistic community. She had other people perform classic pieces of hers, but Marina A. also wanted to stage an original work and did so with The Artist Is Present.
It was that performance, out of all the recreated and archived pieces in the retrospective, which thousands came to see and perplexed me. It has her seated in silence staring at the person seated opposite them. It, according to the artist, reflects her as a piece of art. But, for me, the art doesn’t happen until the eye contact is made with the observing guest in her space. She is a blank canvas; she is the conduit and enabler of the artistic expression to happen and it indeed happens. She has the charm, the fortitude and the will to have it created there and she alone thought to do it. She is a fascinating woman with a unique artistry indeed.
In Conclusion: I could expound on this in length because it captivated me that much. I have revised this post a number of times paring down more and more what I really wanted to say. But, I kept on finding myself unable to adequately describe in word the artistry depicted here. It has to be seen and experienced and the only way to do that now is via this documentary. This post is my attempt to get you to watch it for yourself. I can only hope you do for you will not meet another like Marina Abramovic.
This film is a perfect example of the power a documentary can have and why I never miss an HBO Film Documentary. I simply hope I whet your appetite to see the film on HBO or HBOGO and witness it for yourself. Then come back to HBOWatch and let me know what you think of MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT.