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 at festivals, alternative spaces, galleries, museums and universities in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asian. In 2016 she completed a 100-day performance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Many of her works are durational in nature, and minimal in actions and materials. Created in response to the site, they engage with the immediate landscape and materiality of the location, its history, use, or politics. Arsem has often focused on designing site-specific events for audiences of a single person, allowing her to explore the unique properties of live performance: the possibility of direct interaction between performer and audience; the opportunity to engage the audience’s full range of senses including taste, touch and smell; and addressing the implications of the temporal nature of the live event, which can be retained only in memory. The performances often hover at the edge of visibility, creating an experience in which the viewer must stretch her or his perceptual capacities to their furthest limits.
She has been the recipient of numerous grants, including 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 the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship in New Genres, 1991.
Her work has been reviewed in many publications including The New York Times (Dunning, 1994), Parachute (Todd, 1998), Text and Performance Quarterly (Anderson, 1994), Women and Performance Journal (Todd, 1996; Parker, 1988), P-Form (Askanas, 1998, 1994), New Art Examiner (Abell, 1992), and High Performance (Engstrom, 1991; Sparks, 1990; Miller, 1990; Perez, 1986; Pederson, 1986; Sommer, 1985).
She is a member (and the founder) of Mobius, Inc., a Boston-based collaborative of interdisciplinary artists. 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.