I love Marina Abramovic

Marina looking like Lady Dracula with the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art.
Marina looking like Lady Dracula with the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art.

I have a love/hate relationship with performance art… I want to hate it – in a world full of starving children they use a lot of resources to do what looks like titting around…. But then – I love it anyway… Good performance art sticks in my head and makes me feel about things in a different way. In a world saturated with logic – a visceral art is a vital counter-balance.

And lately I’ve developed a hero-worship of Marina Abramovic… It started when I watched a documentary about her installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, called The Artist is Present, in 2010. All she did was sit in a chair, and one by one, the audience could come and sit opposite her for as long as they liked… I started my usual tutting… look at all those silly rich arts professionals putting all that effort into nothing… It would look pathetic outside of those hyper-wealthy white cubes… etc… But as usual – I couldn’t look away. It was powerful even on t.v. In real life her sitters were crying. She was giving them the kind of intimate attention we normally feel too unworthy to receive. She was like the Madonna and the sitters were her child.

Since then I’ve seen her pop up everywhere… With James Franco covering him with gold leaf… With Jay-Z butting foreheads while he recreates The Artist is Present, but with added rap singing, for a video… With Lady Gaga learning her ‘method’ – which is bog-standard Mindfulness with added nipples.

Reservations keep trying to kick in :

She looks a bit silly with all that botox.

She’s ho-ing herself out to celebrities to make money.

It all lurks on a line of social awkwardness that could painfully fall apart at any moment, and I fear feeling mortified on someone else’s behalf.

She got famous by working with a man – Ulay – and it depresses me that women seem to have to hitch a ride to critical acclaim on the back of a bloke.

Her work centres on herself… as if female artists are still rewarded for vanity and shunned for speaking out on wider issues. Could a politically engaged Marina ever escape the ‘angry-crazy’ tag that usually shuts smart women up? Would a Marina who had subject matter that wasn’t her own body, reactions or emotions, get any serious attention?

But it doesn’t matter… I still think she’s amazing… And I wish I felt as entitled to my own space as she looks.


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