Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012)

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Released 2-Jan-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time ?
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Matthew Akers
Jeff Dupre

Madman Entertainment
Starring Marina Abramovic
Klaus Biesenbach
David Balliano
Chrissie Iles
Arthur Danto
David Blaine
James Franco
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Nathan Halpern

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     One of the great joys of Madman Entertainment's Arthouse Films series is that it brings to light artists in various fields who might otherwise have been known only to the "serious" art community. One such revelation is the Serbian born performance artist Marina Abramovic who has been presenting her uncompromising brand of performance art since the 1970s and now has the mantle of the benevolent grandmother of the form.

     Director Matthew Akers has produced a loving tribute to this dedicated artist at a key time in her life. In 2010 Abramovic presented a retrospective of her artworks at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Entitled The Artist is Present the retrospective not only gathered together images and films of her past works but also recreated some of those works using a group of very keen young performance artists. Further, she staged one of her most ambitious performances, an exercise in stillness in which she sat opposite museumgoers, simply looking into their eyes, for the duration of the exhibition (during open hours); over 700 punishing hours of staring.

     Performance art has always occupied an unique place in the spectrum of art. For many years it fell into a crack - it was neither theatre to be performed on a traditional stage nor was it art suitable for galleries. Abramovic pioneered some of the most challenging performance art which pushed her body to its physical limits. For many years people debated whether her exercises in pain such as repeated self-flagellation and lying in a fiery circle until she passed out from lack of oxygen were actually art. In one moment in this film Abramovic points out to an interviewer that it has been almost 10 years since somebody asked whether what she did was art.

     Indeed, the staring exercise comprising The Artist is Present is at once compelling and ridiculous. It says something about her dedication to her craft that she is able to maintain sanity through this punishing exercise but it also reflects on the cult of celebrity that patrons of MOMA were prepared to queue (one person for some 60 hours) to stare into a woman's eyes in the name of art. The exhibition drew further criticism from conservative media due to the presence of many nudes recreating her performance pieces. In particular, the recreation of an exercise where two naked people occupy the space in a doorframe so that people had to squeeze past them to get through, elicited howls of condemnation.

     This is not a critique of Abramovic's art. Although there are some interviewees who wax lyrical on her genius it is generally left to the viewer to observe and decide what to make of the performances and the extent to which they have meaning and value. Leaving the qualitative issue aside there is no doubt that Abramovic presents a charming and compelling figure looking barely two-thirds of her 66 years of age.

     The film is a mellow exercise compared to the artist who inspired it. It has moments of comedy, drama and real emotion as Abramovic is re-united with her performance partner and lover from the 70's, equally challenging and committed artist Frank Laysiepen, who goes by the name of Ulay.

     The artist herself might have made a very different film. Still, I doubt that would be many who could watch a film about Abramovic done in the style she has pioneered. Even for those with a passing interest in contemporary art this is a compelling portrait.

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Transfer Quality


     Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 transfer consistent with the original televised aspect ratio. It is 16×9 enhanced.

     The film was shot on high-definition digital video and is very hard to fault. It is fairly sharp throughout even when the cameraperson has to follow a moving target. The talking heads segments are very clear and even the old footage looks pretty good except for some of the rare vision of her early artworks. These look appropriate to the era and original source material.

     There are no technical defects with the transfer. The colours are bright and vibrant and the flesh tones are accurate.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present comes with a English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s.

     This is perfectly adequate for a documentary which consists largely of interview material.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout.

     The surround sound and sub-woofer are not particularly needed however that is no criticism of the film itself.

     The music by Nathan Halpern is engaging and adds to the quality of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The only special feature on this DVD is the international trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.


    The US Region 1 DVD contains a number of fairly short extras as follows:

    That is the preferable version.


     Don't be put off by the sometimes scary nature of the performance art of Marina Abramovic. This documentary gives a fascinating insight into her work without the visceral response demanded of live performance.

     The DVD is of good quality both in sound and vision terms that would have been nice to have more extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, April 08, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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