Marina Abramovi? has been getting a lot of press in the US of late. The Serb-born performance artist makes extreme demands of herself and her dancers, mostly unclothed. The Los Angeles Times calls her ‘the most successful or recognizable performance artist working today. The New York Times in its smarmy, have-it-both-ways style, characterises her as follows:
Hardly anything Ms. Abramovic says offhand is publishable in this newspaper, any more than are photographs from the performances she has presented over the decades, during which, often naked, she has cut or burned or whipped herself, or put herself in situations the plausible outcomes of which included death.
Despite these constraints, the decadent choreographer does not want for willing performers, who are obliged to sign both a contract and a vow of silence, backed up by threats of a million-dollar lawsuit.
Which makes the following confession all the more remarkable. A dancer, Sara Wookey, keen to work with Abramovi? was offered a role ‘of one of six nude females to re-enact Abramovi?’s signature work, Nude with Skeleton (2002), at the center of tables with seats priced at up to $100,000 each.’
On reflection Sara decided that ‘what I experienced as an auditionee for this work was extremely problematic, exploitative, and potentially abusive.’
So she pulled out and wrote an Open Letter to Artists here. Read it. It is one of the strongest and most coherent I have ever encountered from a performing artist, well on its way to becoming a classic of the blog genre.
Sara Wookey performing “Trio A” at VIVA! Performance Festival in Montreal. Photo credit: Guy L’Heureux