Marina Abramovic Continues Unfortunate Trend of Performance Artists Stirring Up Social Media

The artist got in trouble on social media over an early passage of her upcoming memoir, “Walking Through Walls.”

Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

The art world is still trying to wrap its head around the profile of Italian performance artist Vanessa Beecroft from last week’s New York magazine. You know, the one where she claims she’s basically a black man because she has worked with Kanye West. People on social media are still shaking their head, and now Marina Abramović has come along to keep those heads shaking.

The Yugoslav performance artist has kept busy on a seemingly never-ending duty of legacy building ever since her 2010 retrospective “The Artist is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art. To that end she’s penned “Walking Through Walls,” a memoir set to be released in October.

Well, a purported leaked page from the book made it’s way around the internet today. In it, Abramović compares the appearance of Australia’s aboriginal people to dinosaurs.

“Aborigines are not just the oldest race in Australia; they are the oldest race on the planet,” she writes. “They look like dinosaurs. They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet they are not.”

“To Western eyes they look terrible,” she continues. “Their faces are like no other faces on earth; they have big torsos (just one bad result of their encounter with Western civilization is a high-sugar diet that bloats their bodies) and sticklike legs.”

The larger passages seems to recount Abromavić‘s youthful travels through the Australian’s desert, an episode she expanded on in a 2013 interview with The Australian. During that time she claims that her and former partner Ulay spent a year living with aborigines and that the experience left her with a new way of perceiving life.

“For me, aborigines are the most natural human beings: they live not in the past or in the future but in the present. They have a story, and a meaning for everything,” she told the paper.

“I walked out of that desert after a year and had this realization that, ‘Wow. I see things differently. I am new,’ ” she added about the experience.

Lest anyone think the leak of the passage may have been some bizarre prank, Abromavić took to Facebook to acknowledge and apologize for the passage.

“The description contained in an early, uncorrected proof of my forthcoming book is taken from my diaries and reflects my initial reaction to these people when I encountered them for the very first time way back in 1979,” she wrote on Facebook. “It does not represent the understanding and appreciation of aborigines that I subsequently acquired through immersion in their world and carry in my heart today.”

Yet, the damage, in some sense, was done. While it may be a reach to accuse Abromavić of any bigotry, the hashtag “TheRacistIsPresent” made the rounds on Twitter. At least, though, she managed to not only issue an apology but seemed to understand on some level why people were upset.

The Curator is Present: Marina Abramovic needed only 20 words to create an intimate, knowing and hilarious portrait of curator extraordinaire Hans Ulrich Obrist.