Marilyn Arsem has been creating live events since 1975, ranging from solo performances, to large scale, site-specific works incorporating installation and performance. Arsem has presented work in 29 countries, at festivals, alternative spaces, galleries, museums, universities and conferences in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Oceania and Asia.
Arsem regularly creates performances for galleries, but in the last 15 years she has focused on site-responsive performances. They are often designed for audiences of a single person, and respond to both the history of the site, as well as to the immediate landscape and materiality of the location. Her performances are designed to implicate the audience directly in the concerns of the work, to create an experience that is both visceral and intellectual. She incorporates a broad range of media, and often engages all the senses. Sites have included a former Cold War missile base in the United States, a 15th century Turkish bath in Macedonia, an aluminum factory in Argentina, the grounds of an abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium in Poland, and the site of the Spanish landing in the Philippines.
For 100 days from November 2015 to February 2016, she did 100 different six-hour performances on the nature of time, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 2015 she performed at the Belfast International Festival of Performance Art in N. Ireland and at Streetlevel-Performance Art in Public Space in Helsinki, Finland; taught a workshop and performed at the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival in Chicago, IL; performed in TIME SPACE BODY OBJECT as part of the Isles Art Initiative on Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor.
In 2014 she performed at Palazzo Mora in the 2nd Venice International Performance Art Week; at the 7th Zagrebi! Festival in Zagreb, Croatia; the Future of Imagination 9 International Performance Art Event in Singapore; taught a workshop and performed at the PALS 2014 International Festival of Performance Art in Stockholm, Sweden; and participated in the Performance Art Laboratory and Performance Festival at the Centre for Community Cultural Development in Hong Kong. She also performed in Salt Lake City, Utah, and at Mobius events in Boston at Mills Gallery and 808 Gallery.
Arsem has also participated in national and international exchanges. In 2009 she and her husband initiated the biennial “If to Drift” residency focusing on durational performance practices by international artists. In August 2003, she traveled to Poland to participate in a Mobius exchange project with artists from throughout Poland. In 2002 she participated in “The State of Breath,” a residency at the St. Norbert Arts Centre, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, working with five international durational performance artists. In August 2001, she traveled to Croatia to participate in a Mobius exchange project with artists from Zadar, Croatia. In 1999, she also traveled to Croatia for another Mobius exchange between Boston and Istrian Croatian artists entitled “Usvajanje slobode/Taking Liberty.” In 1998/1999 she was part of an exchange between Boston, US and Tainan, Taiwan artists and architects responding to waterfront development in both cities. In 1996 and 1997 she participated in the Mobius-sponsored Liquor Amnii project with women artists from Boston and the Republic of Macedonia, creating work in both countries.
She has been the recipient of awards and grants, including a 2017 City of Boston Artist Fellowship; a 2016 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship; the 2015 Maud Morgan Prize at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which included an exhibition. She was shortlisted for the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art 2015. Other support includes a 2017 Live Art Boston grant from the Boston Foundation; an LEF Foundation grant in 2004; a Research Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, 1997; a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Theater Fellowship, 1994; an Artists Projects: New Forms Initiative Award, 1992, from the New England Foundation for the Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship in New Genres, 1991.
Arsem has also been awarded residencies at the University of Newcastle, Northumbria, UK, 2002; Dartington College of Art, UK, 2002; The MacDowell Colony, 1997, 1992, 1986; and in the Macedonia at the International Art Colony of Kumanovo, 2000; International Art Colony of Kicevo, 1998, and International Plastic Art Colony of Strumica, 1997. Arsem has published articles on her work in Hunter, Lynette and Riley, Shannon Rose, eds. Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), as well as in “In Transit/En Tránsito,” in PerfoPuerto 2002-2007: Arte de Performance en Chile (Valparaiso: Ediciones PerfoPuerto, 2007).
Arsem’s articles on teaching performance art have been published in Germany, Spain, Canada and Poland, as well as online in Total Art Journal. She has taught intensive workshops for artists in the Winter School of the National Review of Live Art, UK; for Bbeyond’s ‘Operation Ambassadors,’ in Belfast, Northern Ireland; for IPAH, in Hildesheim, Germany; at Chiang Mai University, Thailand; at the Living Landscapes conference in Aberystwyth, Wales; for the Facultad de Artes, Universidad de Playa Andra, Valparaiso, Chile; at Live Action Sweden, at the Zaz International Performance Art Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel; at the University of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; at Fire Station Studios in Dublin, Ireland; at the 3rd International Sokowlowsko Festival, Poland; She has given lectures on performance art and her work at universities in the USA, as well as in Argentina, Canada, Chile, Germany, Finland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, and Wales.
In fall 08 an interview with Arsem was published in the UK feminist art journal N.Paradoxa. An article by Cherie Driver on Agency, the collaborative group of Marilyn Arsem, Sandra Johnston and Susanne Bosch, was published in Tipton, Gemma, ed., des/IRE: designing houses for contemporary Ireland (Cork: Gandon Editions/National Sculpture Factory, 2008). Her work is in DVD collections, including liveartworkDVD, issue 5, Mar 2007, and Aspect: The Chronicle of new Media Art: Performance, vol. 9, 2007.
Her work has also been reviewed in publications in Croatia, Germany, Finland, Macedonia and Taiwan; and in the USA and Canada in The New York Times, Parachute, Afterimage, Performing Arts Journal, Text and Performance Quarterly, Women and Performance Journal, P-Form, New Art Examiner, and High Performance.
Arsem received her BFA from Boston University in 1973. She is a member of Mobius, Inc., an interdisciplinary collaborative of artists, which she founded in 1975. She taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for 27 years, establishing one of the most extensive programs internationally in visually-based performance art.