Increasingly, the cinetrix has had a difficult time writing about film[s]. Even ones she quite enjoyed. Yes, I could give you the log line that the HBO doc in question, now enjoying a brief theatrical run, considers the arc of the oft-controversial artist's career through the lens of the MOMA exhibition that shares its name with the film.
Or I could liken performance art to seduction, and Abramović to a practiced beguiler, the embodiment of provocation. Plus, look at that profile!
I could mention how I relished director Matthew Akers' anti-hagiography attitude during the Q&A following the invited screening at the 15th Full Frame Documentary Film Festival on April 14. And the light he shed on the logistics of mounting that sort of show. Hell, just building that kind of chair and climbing into and out of that sort of gown.*
*My notes read "would like to hear from guards."
I could talk about tears. Or Girls. Or that guy with the moustache. Or the David Blaine near-miss. Or the how-to-perform-Marina's-greatest-hits summer camp on the Hudson and what I suppose the Venn diagram overlap is between those 30 Abramović stand-ins and civil war reenactors.
“I say to them, I would like to make a levitation room, I would like to have a digital temple,” Ms. Abramović said of her conversations with the architects. “There will be a room for drinking water and drinking water in slow motion.”
In a phone interview last week she added: “It’s going to be completely unique and special, like nothing else. It’s going to be long durational, and to educate the public about long durational work.” Ms. Abramović said she hopes to use the center to train others in what she calls the “Abramović method,” in which audience members become performers and vice versa; with every visitor outfitted in a lab coat, the distinction between artist and onlooker will melt away, Ms. Abramović said.
Part of the premise of the institute is that visitors will devote time to it: “When you arrive,” Ms. Abramović said, “you have to sign a contract that you will stay a minimum of six hours.” There is no penalty for leaving early, but endurance is rewarded. “The concept is very clear,” she said. “I’m asking you to give me your time, and if you give me your time, I give you experience.”
I could talk about looking and really seeing another person's face. The flickers of recognition and pleasurable frisson whenever a sitter returns to his or her place opposite Abramović. How she serves as a spindle around which the rest of the world turns. Duration. The mortification of the flesh. Adoration.
But instead I keep coming back to the clip at the top of this post. And this quotation, via Fette:
People ask why there are so few female artists who succeed. It’s because women are not ready to sacrifice as much as men. Women want a man, they want a family, they want to have children, they want to be loved, and to be an artist. And they can’t; it’s impossible.
I enjoyed watching the film, but that line throws into high relief the ?essential? narcissism of Abramović and her art that I will never be able to wrap my head around. [Seriously, folks, I scored a six on the Narcissistic Personality Quiz. Where do you think ol' Marina'd fall?] And it explains why the most breathtaking moment in the film is not when Abramović's former collaborator/lover Ulay returns:
It's the removal of a table. But never the barrier.