Art

New film captures the enduring excellence of Marina Abramović

Posted by Liv Siddall,

“The hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing” reads the tagline on the stop-you-in-your-tracks publicity image for HBO Documentary Film’s Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present. In this documentary we are permitted to follow, and fall in love with, Marina in the lead up to her retrospective show in MoMa, as well as being taken back to the period when she and Uwe Layseipen’s turbulent love story and performances were taking the art world by storm.

Retrospective shows are generally a time for the artist and the fans to take stock of what has come before, and can sometimes suggest potential retirement or slowing down. Seeing as Marina Abramovic has long been one of the art world’s most extraordinarily controversial, sexual, fiery stars, it comes as no surprise that her retrospective was going to be rather different to those before her and that, more importantly, the artist is showing no signs of slowing down yet.

Early on in the documentary, we watch as a naked Marina parades about in front of wide-eyed photographers in countless studios, bathtubs and galleries. In front of the camera she is dazzling – a confident woman of 63, completely at ease with her body, and unlike many, at her most comfortable when in front of the lens.

We are told early on about her incredibly strict mother who, in fear of spoiling her, gave her minimal encouragement, but unlike many articles and documentaries, the film does not dwell on this, choosing instead to concentrate on what came later, and what is happening now.

Even though the film is largely centred around the infamous 2010 MoMa retrospective, in which Marina takes centre stage and offers the general public the chance to sit opposite her and stare into her eyes – an experience that leaves the majority of them in tears, see marinaabramovicmademecry.tumblr.com/ – the most compelling aspect is the reunion of Marina and Uwe Layseipen, or ‘Ulay’.

Upon meeting in 1976, Ulay and Marina formed an almost prophesied bond. Feeling that they had each met their soulmate, artistically and physically (even their birthdays are the same), they set about making performance art together as one unit, beginning a 12-year relationship fuelled by passion that could rival the greatest lovers in history.

When they finally agreed to part ways forever, they decided to each walk 2,500 miles from either end of The Great Wall of China, and meet in the middle to say their goodbyes (the walk was, of course, filmed, and is heartbreaking.) The 2012 documentary chooses to reveal the moment when Ulay and Marina are reunited in New York on the days leading up to her show.

Now living separate lives, the chemistry between them is still palpable. On the opening night of her show, when she begins her three-month stint in the wooden chair, staring people in the eyes, Ulay turns up and sits opposite her, creating a seriously epic, utterly real interaction between two past soulmates, brought together again by the art that joined them when they met.

This film showcases the woman whose art was questioned for the entirety of her career, finally brought to an explosive head at a show that saw people traveling from across the world and will go down in history. To now deny the work she has produced consistently and passionately throughout her life is not art is no longer valid, and anyone who sees this incredibly moving and inspirational documentary would agree.

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. London-is-changing-intlist

    Public art project London is Changing makes Londoners uncomfortably aware of the truths we’re perhaps trying to ignore: that our city is morphing beyond recognition, that creativity is at risk, and that for many people, it’s simply becoming unaffordable.

  2. Bensanders-potdealer-3-int_copy

    While keeping himself busy with postmodern Howard Hodgkin-esque painting and collage work, Ben Sanders is somehow finding the time to paint funny faces on ceramics. Cutting through the “worthy lifestyle” pottery trend with googly eyes, zigzag nostrils and creepy grins, Ben has stamped his sense of humour and aesthetic all over these thriving succulents’ homes.

  3. Olafur-eliasson_little-sun-int-1

    A “giddy joy” was described as the feeling evoked by the artwork of Olafur Eliasson when we interviewed him for last year’s Autumn edition of Printed Pages, and with his monumental, often participatory pieces, it’s not hard to see why. From his incredible 2003 Weather Project at Tate Modern to its portable, socially-conscious, tiny counterpart Little Sun(which “produces clean, affordable, and portable solar-powered lamps to areas of the world without reliable access to electricity”), his work is a glorious, utterly original ray of light shining on the sometimes impenetrable art world.

  4. Christian-marclay-vinyl-factory-int-1

    In another brilliant feat of creative engineering that bridges the gap between music, art and design, a project at the White Cube gallery in London’s Bermondsey sees musicians including Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore perform a composition for Christian Marclay, which is recorded and pressed on site by The Vinyl Factory Press. The press is housed in a shipping container, and the artwork for the record – also created on site – is designed by Christian and printed by Coriander Press, in a series that feels like cottage industry, DIY ideas brought into a slick, art-world setting.

  5. Lynda-benglis-int11

    “Think of bayous…crawfish…sea creatures…metal…tieing shoelaces…not knowing what to do sometimes and just doing it.” This is Lynda Benglis’ bizarre monologue, with which she ends the introduction to her new show.

  6. Brechtvandenbroucke-the-fame-main-int

    Brecht, after five years of admiring your work I can happily say that I can spell your name without looking. And I can tell you that even though I’ve spent years admiring the skill of your painting, I can finally say that I think I actually get it. Over time, Brecht’s erratic artworks have become increasingly crowded with characters, pop culture references, logos, and his trademark long-limbed creatures.

  7. Antoinecorbineau-6-int

    It’s my personal opinion that some of the most exciting creative work starts life as a side project to distract from commercial jobs. Such is definitely the case for Antoine Corbineau, a French illustrator and designer who has worked on a plethora of projects for commercial clients, drawing up large-scale, intricate scenes of characters interacting in an enormous, often map-like style. Potentially even more alluring, however, is Antoine’s painting work. It’s distinctly less bright, almost realist in its approach, depicting familiar domestic scenes and landscapes interspersed with small but resonant human activity. His attention to minute detail – the foliage of a plant, a picture frame, the icons on a computer screen – and his accuracy in creating scenes that you could swear you’d seen before makes this body of work oddly enchanting.

  8. Sethbogart-ceramics-home

    Seth Bogart is quite the Renaissance man. The frontman of San Francisco-based band Hunx & His Punx is also an artist, producing paintings, drawings and ceramics; a video director; a photographer and a fashion designer. He has collaborated with Yves Saint Laurent and has his own store, Wacky Wacko, for which he also designs installations. Seriously, this guy.

  9. Ellakru-painting-7home-int

    Latvia-born Ella Kruglyanskaya now lives and works in New York, depicting cartoon-like friends and “frienemies” out-and-about in large-scale oil paintings and murals. Ella’s work is packed with bawdy humour, exaggerated forms, exuberant mark-making and interactions. She describes her intention as “pictorial events… [that] aspire to an unspoken punch line” – the content, references and line-work all filtered through comedy.

  10. Anniedescarteaux-collage-7home-int

    Annie Descôteaux’s work is confident, engaging and straight-forwardly slapstick. The Montreal-based artist works with installation, drawing and collage and has seen her work exhibited and discussed at conferences on colour theory. In equally impressive outings, it’s also appeared in Bloomberg and Pica magazines, among other publications. Annie’s collage work is well-balanced with clean lines, sharp colours and discreet humour; each piece littered with raw steak, fried eggs and shuttlecocks.

  11. Oliviervrancken-untitled-1-inthome

    Olivier Vrancken is a graphic designer and artist based in Holland. Painting and drawing his way through commissions and personal work, he is inspired by everything from primitive art to the great lyricists that are Black Sabbath. Olivier has exhibited all over Europe, his Cubist aesthetic and visual references laden with nods to cut-outs, still life, architecture and the human form. There’s a great colour palette to his work and some nice titles like Bad Hair Day and Wanderlust. Olivier’s work reminds me of the prints that appeared all over the T-shirts of the 1980s, in a good way.

  12. Menutnutnut-drawing-4-int

    Me nut nut nut was one of Jason Murphy’s daughter’s first utterances, and is now the name for his drawings of awkward stories of fear and incompetence. Inspired by the physical comedy of The Young Ones and The Ren & Stimpy Show, Jason’s drawings rely on comic intuition and references to real-life moments, like dropping a potato on his cat.

  13. Seamus_murhpy_pj-harvey_-recording-in-progress_-2015.-an-artangel-commission.-_1_int

    While we wait to take our turn to become a sort of strangely sanctioned voyeur as PJ Harvey records her ninth album, thinking about what’s ahead feels peculiar. Essentially, we’re going to see PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, a photographer and two engineers making an album in a Something & Son-designed box, formed of glass that allows visitors to see in, while the musicians can’t see out.