For three months in 2010, Serbian-born performance artist Marina Abramovic sat in a chair in a gallery at New York's Museum of Modern Art and directed her full, silent attention toward individual visitors seated across from her, seven hours a day, six days a week, without eating or drinking. Matthew Akers's invaluable film The Artist is Present, named for the exhibition, documents the preparation and execution of the show. Abramovic is now in her sixties, and the harder edges of her persona, apparent in old footage, have softened. She's a striking and seductive figure, and the Hard Day's Night stampedes into the exhibit each morning testify to her charisma. Throughout the 1970s, Abramovic collaborated with her partner, the West German performance artist known as Ulay. In their final, most epic work, The Lovers, they walked toward each other from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China over three months. They broke up afterward due to Ulay's infidelity, and did not see each other again for 23 years, until shortly before the opening, their reunion filmed by Akers. Ulay is among the first to sit at the table across from Abramovic, and the moment they share, informed by their history, is moving. Other striking incidents involve an encounter with David Blaine, whose douchesmithery includes crunching and swallowing a chunk of his wine glass, and the re-creation of earlier Abramovic pieces, which inspire Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly to question whether or not this "Yugoslavian-born provocateur" could even be considered an artist.
Matthew AkersJeff Dupre, Maro ChermayeffMusic Box Films