Abramovic Controversy Unravels Gala

Los Angeles - Dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer has written a letter to LA’s MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch condemning the planned performance of artist Maria Abramovic at this year’s MOCA gala. An art collector of Art Kabinett social network has passed this information along for today's reading. Rainer’s letter denounces Abramovic’s upcoming performance as ‘grotesque’ and ‘verg[ing] on economic exploitation’. Several art figures have joined the charge, with Douglas Crimp, Tom Knechtel, and Monica Majoli acting as signatories. The anger stems from what Abramovic is asking of the performers, with many allegedly feeling ‘taken advantage of’. The performance apparently demands that the performers endure three hours with their heads protruding through the gala's tabletops, while being slowly rotated in circles. Meanwhile, in recreation of Abramovic’s famous ‘Nude With Skeleton’ performance, pictured above, fellow performers will be asked to lie upon the tables naked with fake skeletons on top of them. A leaked email by one of the performers explained how ‘Whatever happens, we are to remain in performance mode and unaffected’: ‘we were warned that we will not be able to leave to pee, etc. That diners may try to feed us, give us drinks, fondle us under the table, etc’. To top it all, participants will be paid a mere 'sub-minimal' $150 and receive a token offer of one-year MOCA membership. The letter sent by Yvonne Rainer argues that the ‘desperate voluntarism’ of the performers ‘says something about the generally exploitative conditions of the art world’ – ‘that people are willing to become victims of a celebrity artist in the hopes of somehow breaking into the show biz themselves. And at sub-minimal wages for the performers, the event verges on economic exploitation and criminality’. For Rainer ‘This grotesque spectacle promises to be truly embarrassing’, and she expresses dismay that MOCA would ‘stoop to such degrading methods of fund raising’; ‘Must we re-name MOCA “MODFR” or the Museum of Degenerate Fund Raising?’ Abramovic denies the validity of these allegations, believing that the end justifies the means: ‘the performance itself will bring some kind of dignity, serenity, and concentration to the normal situation of a gala, and actually change the energy of the space and bring the performance into an everyday life situation’. Other big names associated with this year MOCA gala – where tickets range from $2,500 to $10,000, and table prices range from $25,000 to $100,000 – include Debbie Harry, Larry Gagosian and Dasha Zhukova.