THE CREATORS PROJECT - Matthew Placek

The Artist Is 3D: An Immersive Portrait of Marina Abramović

By Marina Garcia-Vasquez

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Marina Abramović stands stark naked in the middle of a forlorn room, her body painted as a ghostly white apparition. As the star of visual artist Matthew Placek's 3D portrait, 130919: A Portrait of Marina Abramović, Abramović is anchored within the building that will one day be the Marina Abramović Institute, as a camera pans over and around her. This vision of the artist, nude and unafraid, is familiar as it speaks to the countless times Abramović has stared intensely into the camera and her audience from various settings and eras. Yet, this rendition is different, as it is a moving, living, and breathing rendition of the artist by another artist.

In 130919, Abramović surrenders herself to Placek's direction. In a single composition, he attempts to immortalize the past, present, and future, and does so with profound intentionality. It is his objective to capture Abramović’s emotional energy by placing her within her own creative womb at a timely precipice; both artist and building are “exposed, strong, and marked with history,” he explains.

"A portrait is always a collaborative process and a result of my personal relationship with the subject; whether or not it is a relationship that began four hours or four years ago. My aesthetic is quite clear so subjects are not in the dark as to what to expect,” Placek tells The Creators Project. Abramović, for example, did not see this work until four months after it was completed. "I ushered her through the Miami-based installation at Art Basel just the two of us. When the film came to an end, she removed her 3D glass and looked to me with tears in her eyes. She said, ‘Baby, you did it right.’”

The immersive, site-specific installation was created in Hudson, New York and has shown recently at Second Ward Foundation in Hudson, National Monument Fort Jay on Governors Island in the fall of 2015, and first premiered at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2013.

The 3D portrait is the culmination of three years and a production that has been supported by the Rockefellers Brothers Fund, The National Young Arts Foundation, The Knight Foundation, and Visionaire Film. Upon entering the installation at the Second Ward Foundation’s auditorium last month, groups of four at a time were invited to explore theformer elementary school. In various states of deterioration, each of the four rooms that were once used as classrooms serves as a viewing station for a stereoscopic, personal screening of 130919. For a brief moment in time, the viewer experiences Abramović’s intensity one-on-one.  

The seamlessness of the 3D portrait is an unforgettable private moment that releases a surge of emotion within the viewer. That graceful artistic moment was created one full day in September 2013: it took three hours to fit a 50-foot crane through a five-foot-wide door. Placek and crew shot seven takes in full stereoscopic 3D with two RED cameras and a 3D rig. He says earnestly, “Marina is a pro and so was my entire crew of nearly 40 people. It takes an army to make something complicated look and feel very simple.”