Art Basel Miami: Marina Abramović

The Seminal Artist in Conversation with MoMA's Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach

The artist Marina Abramović is present on NOWNESS in an exclusive audio clip revealing how the Academy Award-winning documentary Man On Wire inspired her to pursue her dreams and enact her monumental performance residency at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2010. The artist’s remarkable feat is documented by director Matthew Akers’ yet-unreleased film Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, which NOWNESS will exclusively preview at Soho Beach House tonight during Art Basel Miami 2011. Detailing the intimate challenges, dangers and endurance required for Abramović’s three-month marathon undertaking—she sat for seven hours a day, six days a week silently engaging any audience member who sat opposite her—The Artist is Present is an arresting emotional journey. Time after time we watch visitors melt into tears, laid bare by the power of their connection with Abramović. The complex relationship with her former lover and performance partner Ulay, who she nomadically lived and worked with over 12 years, is dramatically brought to the fore when he shows up. And when her collaborator and curator on the show, Klaus Biesenbach, sits across from the artist at the completion of her historic run, the two set off a fireworks show of emotions. We reunited Abramović and Biesenbach in the artist’s SoHo apartment to talk about power, celebrity and their transformative show.

Marina Abramović: Do you know about the ArtReview Power 100 list?  It’s so strange because my art is not selling at the prices of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, but I am very high on this power list. It’s nothing to do with economical power. It’s a different influence.

Klaus Biesenbach: I didn’t see it, but I know I’m on the list.

MA: Damien Hirst is [number] 64 and Jeff Koons is 66, but look at you: 16. I’m 23, but I was [previously] 70 or 80 and I never thought I would get any higher. My work can’t sell at the prices like a painting.

KB: There is a clear recognition from the practicing artists, that celebrity is a power in society. There is religious-spiritual power. There is economic power. There is political power. And there is the power of the media. Artists deal with this, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, but it’s a statement. 

MA: There is a guy who made a science-fiction book about me that is coming out this month. I am the main character in this book, doing performances on planet Mercury and on asteroids out of gravitational space. I talked to him on the phone and asked how that came about and he said that I was ideal. He said, “You’re so immaterial we can really send you on a galactic journey.”

KB: But do you see the difference, Marina? You had to be the subject, the driver, the pilot, the author and you became the object; it’s a huge change. That perhaps is the description of what celebrity is: the balance between being a subject and an object.

MA: There is this title “mother of performance.” I said this once and the journalists used it for the last 20 years [to describe me]. I want to make the book like a manual with instructions of what it takes to make performances like I do; like a method. The grandmother will be changed into some kind of Ambramović method.

KB: Like Dr. Ruth.

MA: You know, I’m just kind of healing myself out of a very long-term relationship. At the moment I just want to be free. I’m quite romantic. I don’t believe in dating—it’s so American. This is my advice to Americans: dating doesn’t work. I just heard that you can Google what you want and you go this special restaurant and then you can fast date 30/40 people so you don’t lose time. Again, I think this shows how we are polluted by the internet and technology. No, I go to Machu Picchu, meet an Inca god, and then we see.

Photo by Maciek Kobielski
Shot at Maciek's studio in Brooklyn
November 2011
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