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Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present

Marina Abramovic has been called “the grandmother of performance art,” although she's as youthful as ever in Matthew Akers's fascinating, visually crisp documentary portrait, tracking Abramovic's celebrated 2010 Museum of Modern Art retrospective. The Serbian-born artist made work in the 1970s concerning the limits and conceptions of the body that have long since become part of the modern art canon, yet she still continues to athletically press at the boundaries of performance art. Granted a yearlong all-access pass, Akers captures Abramovic's many selves as she stages this major exhibition. The MOMA show, titled The Artist Is Present, was a marathon spectacle in which Abamovic faced viewers singly, silently-gathering ever more fervent groupies along the way. Akers's camera also captures her posing glamorously for fashion magazines; in guru mode, training young artists to enact her early work; sick in bed using chromatic therapies; domestic while cooking pasta; and emotionally raw while reconnecting with her former art and life partner, Ulay. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present confidently meets built-in challenges, giving the oft-reviled, ephemeral medium of performance a sympathetic, mainstream platform and humanizing a woman who defies age as easily as stereotypes. The documentary befits its subject: It's a sleek, unerring look in the eye of an extraordinary artist.

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