Artist Abramovic attracts new stares in film

Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:01pm EDT
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By Simona Rabinovitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Marina Abramović, the performance artist who became a cultural phenomenon when she gazed silently at audience members at her acclaimed New York retrospective two years ago, has now allowed herself to be the subject of study.

A new film documentary, "Marina Abramović, The Artist Is Present," is named after the 66-year-old's 2010 retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art and uses that show as a window into her life, dedicated to a controversial art form. It hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles this week and airs on cable TV channel HBO on July 2.

The Serbian-born Abramović told Reuters the MoMa exhibit changed her life and helped define her life's mission: "To teach the public to get to their own (spiritual) centers."

"Since I was young, I always had a very strong sense of purpose. This is more clear now than ever. This is why I gave everything else up. I have no marriage, no anybody, no children, no family, only one brother who lives in Belgrade."

The documentary shows audiences how Abramović's charisma and sense of humor have built a supportive circle of friends and colleagues, as well as rock star status in the art world. It also depicts the transformative power of her work upon the public.

As highlighted in the film, the retrospective, which lured an estimated 750,000 people, included recreations of Abramović's early, controversial works performed by 41 artists she trained. In one piece, two nude people stood facing each other in a doorway through which the public passed, inevitably touching their skin.

Yet the show's centerpiece was an ongoing performance piece in which Abramović sat in a chair as audiences lined up for hours for the chance to sit in a chair facing hers. Silently, each gazed into the other's eyes.

Some cried. Others waited in line all night or returned several times. As for Abramović, she sat immobile for seven-and-a-half hours a day for three months. The film shows her smiling, crying and responding as the connection with each person played out.   Continued...

Artist Marina Abramovic poses for a portrait in New York, June 1, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Burton