According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “the definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy. Whether art can be defined has also been a matter of controversy. The philosophical usefulness of a definition of art has also been debated”. In other words, art is one of the most loosely used terms, able to acquire whatever meaning it chooses and even if it doesn’t establish one in the end, no one will really care. Which means that the ongoing debate regarding whether or not Marina Abramovic is an artist, should be put to the side, and what this performer has to show us should be enjoyed for whatever it is. Determining why one loves or hates her performance becomes pointless when watching her perform. So if she evokes any kind of esthetic experience in you, call it art. If she doesn’t, dismiss her and put her down as a poser. But whatever you do, give her credit for her balls.
Using Matthew Akers’ recent documentary titled Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present as an excuse, I tried to answer or at least effectively avoid all the art-related questions that arise inside my head when watching someone like Marina — an artist, a dark hero, a maniac — perform. The film takes its audience inside the artist’s world, the backstage, the preparation, the performance, the finale, the aftermath, the emotions she quietly deals with from beginning to end. And if there’s one thing that Akers’ film succeeds in proving, it’s that Marina Abramovic is anything but a poser. She’s fearless and outrageous, she’s crazy and far too daring, but at the same time, she’s alive — in the fullest possible meaning of the word.
Abramovic uses her body as a vehicle, she pushes herself to the limit, crosses all kinds of lines and remains anything but intact. Her health and own life are very often put at risk, her name and reputation are constantly bruised, but she never stops physically and emotionally stripping herself down in front of each and every one of her spectators. In this particular performance that documentary Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present revolves around, it’s the artist’s time to stop scarring and hurting herself, while screaming and running into walls. This is as far as she wants to go and now she chooses to let her silence do all the talking. She’s not tired and she’s not giving up. She just believes that this will challenge her audience further and in a very unusual and innovative way.
Marina’s latest “performance” involves her sitting in New York Museum of Modern Art’s atrium day in and day out for three whole months, while visitors are invited and encouraged to sit opposite her, one at a time, look at her and take whatever they need out of this meeting. No touching is allowed and no talking, the only thing that the artist and each of her viewers exchange is energy. A silent dialogue, so engaging and so powerful, that it manages to carry even more weight than her violent previous performances. How or why, I could not say, but facing the artist, one by one, feels exhilarating and remarkably pure.
And in this simple but highly demanding way, Marina Abramovic gives her final answer to the eternal question of whether what she does is art and why it is that she calls herself an artist. Silently, creatively, emotionally, but also dramatically and artistically, Matthew Akers’ documentary Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present captures the artist’s latest performance, gives depth to her very little known by many strong personality and takes its time to communicate that art is whatever each of us wants it to be. Besides, the usefulness of a definition of art has, as stated earlier, also been widely debated.
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present at IMDb
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present at Wikipedia
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present at Rotten Tomatoes
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present at MOMA.org
The Devil in Marina Abramovic inveview at NYTimes.com
Marina Abramovic at Wikipedia