One beautiful, sunny, late-summer morning, I arrived at the chic, minimalist New York studio of Marina Abramovic (her neighbours in the building include, among others, Cindy Sherman) located round the back of the Meat Packing district. The large loft was bustling with young people, six of them, all rather beautiful and all rather stylish.
I had come to meet her because this October sees the publication in France of her memoir (Traverser les murs) from Editions Fayard, first published in the United States in 2016 by Crown Archetype with the title “Walk Through Walls”.
That day Marina is dressed in a sportswear ensemble of sorts, tight black shorts, sweatshirt and flip-flops, and she immediately starts talking about a birthday party of a female New Yorker she is due to attend, who has sent by way of invitation a little booklet containing the addresses of all the local doctors and specialists in plastic surgery.
She tells me she has just returned from a 3-day retreat in Upstate New York in the heart of nature, which she herself has hosted, where she has first instructed everybody to stop talking, then to fast, then to go tree-hugging and confide their feelings of anger and unhappiness to the tree trunks. She then tells me that we ought to be getting on with the interview, since that afternoon she is having her teeth whitened.
Also on her current agenda there is a conference as part of Yalta European Strategy (YES), set up by the Kiev oligarch and collector Victor Pinchuk (on 16 September), her own flavour of Ladurée macarons will be presented by Kreëmart during Frieze at Harrods in London, she has a series of exhibitions currently showing in Scandinavia, plus a large-scale exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2020.
“I am booked up until 2022,” says the 71-year-old.
It is at the Royal Academy that she will be unveiling perhaps the project she is most excited about: a Marina Abramovic preserved for eternity; in virtual reality form, who will be campaigning within a kind of video game for the conservation of the oceans. She was chosen for this project by Acute Art, along with Jeff Koons and Olafur Eliasson.
About the 3:
This is Marina Abramovic, universally known as the “grandmother of performance art” despite her youthful appearance, whose solo show at Moma in 2010 drew crowds of at least 750,000 people.
She is a creature of seduction, yet also a social activist, both superficial and profound, glamorous and conceptual, a disciple of dematerialisation and materialism.
A Yugoslav communist (her origins) and an American capitalist (what she has become).
As she says herself on page 338 of her book, she is in fact three people at once:
“There is the warrior one and the spiritual ones. The bullshit one is the one I try to keep hidden. This is the poor little Marina who thinks everything she does is wrong the Marina who’s fat, ugly, and unwanted. The one who, when she’s sad, consoles herself by watching bad movies, eating whole boxes of chocolates, and putting her head under the pillow to pretend her troubles don’t exist.”
There can be no doubt that the woman who responded to my amusing exercise of five questions in 50 seconds was her warrior self. Each answer was given without preparation, without faltering, and with no holds barred.
Marina Abramovic has yet to give up her throne as the absolute queen of performance art.
Why is it important to publish your memoirs?
Do you believe in God?
Why is sex so important for you?
What do you think about money?
What would you like people to remember you for?