Tonight is the world premiere of Matthu Placek‘s 3D “Portrait of Marina Abramovic.” Presented by The National Young Arts Foundation and Visionaire, the installation was created for the Jewel Box on the YoungArts campus in Miami. Screenings will take place every 15 minutes tonight through Saturday from 6:00PM to 3:00AM. Earlier this week, Placek took the time to answer a few of our questions about the project, his relationship with Abramovic, and offering a space for seeing art by night during Art Basel Miami Beach.
WHITEWALL: You have worked with Marina Abramovic on several occasions. What is it about her that inspired you to create your new short film entirely of her?
MATTHU PLACEK: I believe her. At some point in our relationship, we were first introduced in 2007, she showed me that she is a sincere, good person. It’s quite simple. I love people and those with a solid foundation are an inspiration to me. This film has been brewing for the last three years. With the luxury of time I was able to carefully consider all the elements. In the winter of this year, it became clear that this film was a “portrait” of Marina at this moment in her life with elements that provide a window into her past and her future.
WW: You’ve previously said that you want “A Portrait of Marina Abramovic” screened from dusk to dawn, or at least until 3:00AM during Art Basel Miami Beach. Why is it important to you to play the film throughout the night, rather than the day?
MP: Screening the portrait at night during Art Basel Miami Beach was essential. Marina Abramović is incredibly present (pun intended) in the public eye and rightfully so. Art Basel Miami Beach is loud and everything in the vicinity of the convention center screams for attention. The film features a nude Abramović in 3D…etc. My depictions of people have never been short on drama and this installation is no exception. With all the spotlights at their brightest I felt it best to present this work as quietly as I could get away with.
This portrait is incredibly intimate and vulnerable. It is a meditative invitation the moment you walk into the Jewel Box. Preceding the film, visitors are immersed in a score created by Thomas Bartlett and Svetlana Spajic. This is where you take a deep breath and a long exhale while experiencing this incredible piece of architecture that has never been open to the public. Following the score visitors take their individual seats for the screening. Every element of this presentation asks people to slow down and consider what surrounds them. ABMB is most commonly considered “Art by Day” and “play by night.” I want this project to be an alternative.
WW: After sitting down with Abramovic in 2010 at MoMA for “The Artist is Present”, you sat face to face, silently, communicating only through your eyes. What were you able to learn about her in those few minutes?
MP: For me, “The Artist is Present” was an exchange for everyone who sat with Marina with different motivations. Some wanted to connect with a person, some had never heard of Marina Abramovic before, others had something to prove, many came to support her, some were curiousm, and all wanted the attention.
One man who did not know Marina personally sat across from her. When Marina looked up at this handsome man, he smiled to slightly and she was suddenly all a glow, she began to cry with such positive intensity. They exchanged something profound in that moment. Another person sat across from her for hours who gave her nothing. Marina looked tired and vacant and he just sat there as if to stand his ground.
During my 11 minutes with her I can honestly say I was absolutely present with her so completely if only for a few moments of those 11minutes. Everything around us disappeared and I gave her everything I could from across the room. When I felt that connection was gone, I nodded with appreciation and made room for my friend. So, to answer your question, I think I learned more about people in general and myself on that day, rather than Marina specifically.
WW: In your short films, your relationship with the subject provides foundation for the story. Do you believe this is necessary in conveying a deeper message to the audience?
MP: Absolutely! It is essential but that is not to say that a 30-minute coffee with a stranger will not trigger an epic saga in my mind. Like I said, I love people and their story. I don’t want to make portraits of people based on a Wikipedia page. In a perfect world, I want someone to come upstate to my (future stone cottage) and join me for dinner. I’ll put them to bed in the guest house and the following day we will make a picture together in my barn studio. Wouldn’t that be nice?!
WW: To go even deeper, most of your films are shown using just one shot, providing a raw and personal look at the subject. How do you channel so much emotion with just one angle?
MP: One-take cinematography is a means to a platform for the performer. Based on the subject and their work I do my best to interpret a scene with a beginning and middle, a climax and an ending. This arch takes the viewer on an uninterrupted journey with a performer. In a world where everything is “insta” I try to give people a live performance that won’t allow them to look away on account of respect for the subject. Whether you realize it or not you don’t want to look away because you feel someone is giving you something very special which has not been tampered with.