Performance art has never had a more enthusiastic audience than the one that lined up for Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. A blockbuster of major proportions, the show was viewed by 750,000 people — some sleeping outside the museum overnight just for a chance to silently sit opposite the artist during her daily, 7 and a half hour, endurance-testing performance for 72 days. The widely acclaimed retrospective presented highlights from the artist’s 40-year career in a variety of media — from art photography and documentary videos to staged installations and re-performances by a cast of trained players — but within a short three months it was over. Now The Artist is Present lives again — offering even more viewers a chance to see the spectacle — in the form of a feature-length, documentary film.
Director Matthew Akers takes us behind the scenes at MoMA — from the conception of the show to its emotional ending — and traces Abramović’s experimental history back to her pioneering performance art days in the ’70s through images, clips, and interviews with collaborators, historians, participants, and the artist herself. Akers documented every waking moment of the her life over the course of ten months, as well as the entirety of her challenging performance in the museum’s atrium, with the aim of answering the question that Abramović has so often been asked, “but why it is art?”
“Performance art has never been a regular form of art,” Abramović declares in the film. “It’s always been alternative since I was born, so I want it to be a real form of art and respected before I die.” She certainly achieved that goal in her MoMA survey and now this dynamic documentary helps sort out all of the reasons why performance art is not only art, but truly one the most radical forms of art of our time.
MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ THE ARTIST IS PRESENT opens at New York’s Film Forum on June 13 and LA’s Landmark NuArt Theatre on June 15 and debuts on HBO on July 2. The film receives a national theatrical release later in July through Music Box Films. Click through below for a lively selection of art, film stills, and production shots and to watch the captivating trailer.
MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ THE ARTIST IS PRESENT: Marina Abramović. Photo Credit: David Smoler/ Courtesy of HBO Documentary Films & Music Box Films