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The Artist Is Present: movie review

Seeing the audience experience performance artist Marina Abramovic is overwhelming to watch.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / June 15, 2012

'The Artist Is Present' centers on the retrospective devoted to Abramovic at the Museum of Modern Art in the spring of 2010.

Mary Altaffer/AP

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Marina Abramovic has been called the “grandmother of performance art,” but there’s nothing grandmotherly about this 60-something Serbian woman who has showcased herself in often transgressive body displays for almost 40 years beginning in Belgrade in the early 1970s.

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Matthew Akers and his codirector, Jeff Dupre, have fashioned a movie about Abramovic, “The Artist Is Present,” that unapologetically lays out the case that what she does is indeed art and not, say, sadomasochism with a PhD. (Following its theatrical run, the film will debut on HBO July 2.)

The film’s centerpiece is the retrospective devoted to Abramovic at the Museum of Modern Art in the spring of 2010.

For over seven hours a day for three months, Abramovic sat opposite audience members who had stood in line for up to 10 hours for the chance to sit across from her in silence and stare into her eyes for as long as they wished.

This may seem like a stunt, but the experience, with many of the sitters tearing up, or smiling beatifically, is overwhelming to watch. Grade: B+ (Unrated.)

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