I recently read Phaidon's Contemporary Artists book about Marina Abramovic. I saw her MOMA retrospective The Artist Is In and was really moved by it and by her presence in the museum. My favorite video pieces were from the Balkan Erotic Epic. I thought they were smart and beautiful. But mostly I like Abramovic's work because she's so present and open in it.
Last night I watched The Order from Matthew Barney's Cremaster III. The film itself was beautiful and I bought the argument of Barney working as a sculptor in film and I would absolutely go see more from the series.
However, I also thought the film was hiding behind so many layers of, well everything, mythology, flash, silliness, that it just seemed like an elaborate MFA exercise. There was a documentary about Barney afterwards and I, from the moment he opened his mouth, wanted to punch him in the face. It was an endless pile of language meant to obfuscate anything he wanted to say or the film may have wanted to explore.
All of that obfuscation is fine if that's what you want, but he presented himself and his work as heroic. Anything that may have been in stake in that film or in his interview was safely swaddled in clouds and clouds of academic jargon and bullshit (For example, instead of talking about playing football he alluded to his "athletic practice". Dear Suffering Jesus.) which I think immediately drains all the heroicism out of it. It was just a puzzle or a trick, one Barney played well, but far from heroic.
I do think Abramovic is and has been heroic. While that heroicism took the blatant form of personal danger for awhile, I think her heroicism now- of being well and truly present and open- is so much more moving. I could have stood upstairs and watched her sitting for hours- it was a beautiful, moving exercise.
What I want to steal from her is that presence, that ability not to hide behind words or images, but to tell a truth and not distance myself from that truth.
Here is Abramovic talking about Balkan Erotic Epic. It has a lot of boobies and penises and masturbation and ground humping so don't watch it is you don't want to see those kinds of things.