Marina Abramovic, star performer, saint and martyr, in two documentaries, on Netflix and

Artist Marina Abramovic (left) at the opening night of the exhibition 'Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on March 9, 2010.


We no longer present Marina Abramović (born in 1946), no more than we present Robert (or Bob, depending on the case and time) Wilson (born in 1941): both have been great names in the artistic avant-garde since the 1970s, versatile in the expression of their art, which has reached a wide audience. Their confrontation was both risky and inevitable: it took place in 2011 during a show whose plot is the life of the Serb living in the United States, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic.

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But how was the all-ego and the very strong personality of Abramovic, famous for his performances and his extremist happenings, going to agree with the conceptual and poetic universe of the director – visual artist, designer of lights (essential) of his shows and also a former dancer – known for his horror of naturalism?

To tell the truth, it seems to have happened like a charm, if we are to believe the interested parties themselves, filmed as part of the documentary Bob Wilson’s Life and Death of Marina Abramovic (2012), of Giada Colagrande, on Netflix, as well as the British transgender singer Anohnistill known by her birth name and gender at the time of filming, Anthony Hegartyand the American actor Willem Dafoe.

For the occasion, Marina Abramovic made herself small and humble, but with this affectation of which she has the secret. She cries in front of the camera, dwells on her childhood wounds, recounts her life as a martyr who became holy after finding the path to freedom and happiness. No: not happiness, which she finds too boring and limited. She seeks further, in listening and self-control and “return to simplicity”. Otherwise, she says, “we are going to get lost”.


Having become a guru, the Serb developed the “Abramovic method” (contested in 2010 by a long investigation by the New Yorker) and propagates it thanks to disciples trained to carry the good word in the future, in particular with the public of classical music. What Andreas Gräfenstein filmed for Marina Abramovic, the art of listening (2019), a documentary rebroadcast by Arte.

La Abramovic only doing things on a large scale, we have made the floor of the Alte Oper in Frankfurt a bare stage where part of the public comes, by dint of bodily relaxation, withdrawal from the surrounding world, parasitic noises and tools technologies, prepare to create a vacuum to welcome the fullness of music.

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It all feels like new age deja vu, and the seriousness surrounding the experience sometimes brings to mind the hilarious parody made by the pranksters of Documentary Now (on Netflix), where Cate Blanchett plays Izabella Barta, an artist (as sado as masochistic) with a strong accent who only empties herself by filling herself…

The problem is that, when we hear violinist Carolin Widmann imperfectly playing a Sonata by Eugène Ysaÿe, we are quickly reminded of reality. On the other hand, when the cellist Nicolas Altstaedt plays a Saraband of Bach, it is he who creates the mystery, the silence around him, which no preparatory relaxation can ever match.

Bob Wilson’s Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, by Giada Colagrande (Italy, 2012, 57 min). On netflix

Marina Abramovic, the art of listening, by Andreas Gräfenstein (German, 2019, 53 min). On until April 16.

Marina Abramovic, star performer, saint and martyr, in two documentaries, on Netflix and