Yvonne Rainer protests Marina Abramovic’s plans for MOCA gala

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The backlash was, perhaps, inevitable. As the most successful or recognizable performance artist working today, Marina Abramović has gained a broad but nonetheless cultish following for endurance-style work that borders on the masochistic -- and she also has some serious critics.

One is legendary dancer Yvonne Rainer, who is protesting Abramović’s newest project, performances that Abramović is directing for MOCA’s gala Saturday night. While Abramović was in Los Angeles this week auditioning performers to become living centerpieces of sort at the gala dinner tables (they will be kneeling beneath tables, poking their head through holes in them), Rainer has been circulating a letter, addressed to MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch and signed by such art-world luminaries as critic Douglas Crimp, calling the work ‘exploitative’ and a ‘grotesque spectacle.’


One odd twist: Rainer has not seen the performances herself but is basing her critique on a friend or student’s account of the auditions.

Also odd: When contacted Thursday night by phone about the letter, Rainer told Culture Monster she had written it but not sent it to Deitch, ‘and I might not send it, so it would be wrong to publish it.’ She also referred to ‘different drafts’ of the letter. She could not be reached for comment Friday morning. But in its report on the controversy, published long quotes from one version of the letter, and got a response from Abramović: “I hope 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.”

[UPDATE 11/11/11 12:05 p.m.: When asked for comment, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch said: ‘For me this is the way the art world works, it’s all about dialogue. I would just hope that when people make allegations like this, they would actually come to see the performance and talk to the performers.’ He added that Rainer got her information about the project from one performer ‘with her own personal agenda, who does not represent the hundreds of people who applied for this.’ He said he has invited Rainer to attend a rehearsal later today.]

Check back on Culture Monster for any updates on this story, and look for an article Saturday based on a visit with Abramović earlier this week at the auditions, where she describes her vision for the event.


An offer Yvonne Rainer couldn’t refuse


Art Review: ‘Under the Big Black Sun’ at MOCA

Marina Abramovic seeks strong, silent types for MOCA gala

--Jori Finkel