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 28 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.
Intellect Books of the UK, in partnership with the University of Chicago Press, published Responding to Site: The performance work of Marilyn Arsem in 2020, co-edited by Jennie Klein and Natalie Loveless. The book features 12 essays by academics and artists on Arsem's work, as well as her own writing on teaching, and 200 color photographs of her performances.