Matthew Akers’ “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” considers serious high art as fantastic ritual, creating a hypnotic portrait of four decades of work by the Serbian-born performance artist. The intelligence of her work, and her unstinting gaze, is matched by Akers’ own. The focus is Abramovic’s 2010 Museum of Modern Art show “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sat on a hard chair for hours each day, staring into the eyes of museumgoers, unmoving, impassive, yet endlessly expressive and shockingly beautiful in her mid-sixties. It’s a fantastic portrait, even if entirely on her side. She’s an advocate for her art, and for herself, and so very good at it. With Ulay, Klaus Biesenbach, Davide Balliano, Chrissie Iles, Sean Kelly, Arthur Danto and the expectedly superfluous David Blaine and James Franco. A Sundance 2012 debut, “The Artist Is Present” failed to make Oscar’s fifteen-film documentary shortlist this week. 105m. (Ray Pride)
“Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” plays Saturday, Monday and Wednesday-Thursday at Siskel. Abramovic’s gallery bio is here. The trailer below contains nudity.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.