There’s a point during Matthew Akers’ documentary on the celebrated Serbian performance artist at which Klaus Biesenbach, who curated Abramović’s 2010 MoMA retrospective, says: “marina is always performing.” Abramović herself disputes this, but there’s no denying that there appears very little to distinguish between person and artist. They are very publicly joined at the hip – in a way that has hugely benefited the performance art genre.
Besides lingering on Abramović’s astonishing beauty, the documentary makes the most of the 65-year-old’s view of herself as a warrior fighting for performance art with all the strength bequeathed by her Yugoslav partisan parents. The movie’s slightly hagiographic tone can partly be attributed to its focus on the retrospective and its centrepiece: a three-month-long performance during which Abramovic sat for hours every day opposite members of the public. Robed in blue, red or white but vulnerable in every other sense, she accepted the projected gaze of all comers. Somewhat superfluously, the documentary shows many visitors (including Biesebach and Ulay, Abramović’s long-time lover and performance partner) in varying states of emotional upheaval. This evident need to visually document Abramović’s effect on others is the only black mark on an otherwise brilliant slate. Abramović’s art critically explores notions of ego. Neither her art, nor her person, deserve such obvious backup. They are articulate enough.
Directed by Matthew Akers (USA 2012) with Marina Abramovic, Klaus Biesenbach, Ulay. Starts November 29