This week editorial assistant Maisie Skidmore questions whether Marina Abramović’s celebrity collaborations in the run-up to the opening of the Marina Abramović Institute are compromising her reputation as a pioneer of long durational performance art. As ever, you can add your comments in the thread below.
Everybody is talking about Marina Abramović. From Jay Z’s reinterpretation of her iconic piece The Artist is Present earlier this month, in which he performed new song Picasso Baby for six hours straight in a star-studded event at New York’s Pace Gallery, to her rumoured involvement with Lady Gaga’s soon-to-be-released album Artpop, the self-appointed “grandmother of performance art” has been all over the shop of late.
What’s more, with the Marina Abramović Institute – the proposed home of long durational performance – currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of her scaling things back soon. All of which is pushing some critics to question whether her VIP affiliations and her encouragement of her audience’s desperation to meet her might be threatening to undermine the integrity which has, until now, sustained her reputation as one of the pioneers of the art form.
And a pioneer she most definitely is. From the work she made during her 12-year relationship with fellow performance artist Ulay, to the trailblazing piece The Artist is Present in which she sat in the MOMA for 736 hours engaging members of the general public in mutual gaze, her utilisation of her body as a medium has altered the traditions of performance art, encouraging active participation and provoking questions about the role of the Lacanian gaze in the genre of performance art. So, perhaps the ends she is working to really are concerned with the boundaries of performance.
Still, the means by which she is trying to reach them is certainly furrowing some brows. Late last week, for example, Lady Gaga released a film (NSFW) in which she practises “the Abramović method” at the MAI, posing naked in a forest, pressing crystals against her naked body and calling out for minutes at a time. This isn’t the first time Gaga and Marina have been linked, either; in a fundraising event for the MAI earlier this month Gaga took part in a marathon reading of the 1961 sci-fi work Solaris and the pair spent time together at a benefit in the Hamptons in late July. An unlikely friendship, perhaps, seeing as the video interview in which Gaga first expressed her admiration for Marina was considered by many to prove Gaga’s ignorance more than anything else.
In a further mingling of the ideas of art and celebrity, every backer to pledge $1 or more to the MAI’s Kickstarter will receive “a hug from Marina Abramović” in a live event called The Embrace, bringing to mind rapidly the hype around her MOMA retrospective when audience members queued for days to sit with her.
Being involved with pop culture is one thing, but performing with rappers? Hanging out with Lady Gaga? Offering hugs in exchange for dollars? Something seems to have gone awry, here; Marina’s drastic commercialisation in the run-up to the opening of her institute is more akin to the desperate ploys of an attention-hungry popstar than a pioneering performance artist. Let’s just hope the ends justifies the means.