Linda Yablonsky’s report from the Marina Abramovic performance at LA MoCA’s gala fundraiser is too intricate to summarize. Read the fascinating tale of artist v. artist at ArtForum’s Scene & Herd. In the meantime, here’s some of the reactions Yablonsky recorded:
John Baldessari and Meg Cranston seemed pleased to be seated ringside, where half-naked and very buff pallbearers periodically mounted the catwalk-like stage carrying a shrouded body on a bier. At trustee Wallis Annenberg’s front-and-center table, Governor Brown was smiling but seemed uncomfortable at the nude before him. “That’s a fake vagina, isn’t it?” asked collector Michael Ostin, refusing to believe that the woman on display did not have “some kind of enhancement.”
He was not the only doubter. During Serbian folk singer Svetlana Spajic’s performance of a haunting tune from Robert Wilson’s The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, someone at the table beside mine loudly expressed his displeasure to Broad Foundation curator Joanne Hyler, dealer Sara Watson, Creative Time director Anne Pasternak, and Schimmel. “This is offensive!” he shouted. “This is shit, not art. Who is she kidding? Jeffrey! Yo, Jeffrey! Stop this!” The source turned out to be artist Thomas Houseago, who evidently had imbibed more than his share of the “Rauschenberg Spirit” wines. He continued his diatribe during a reading by the performers of Abramović’s full manifesto (“An artist should not steal ideas from other artists; an artist should not make themselves into an idol . . .”) before leaving his dinner partners in peace.
Debbie Harry performed at the event but that only added to the upset:
After her final number, two more shrouded bodies were brought onstage. Under them was dessert: two eerily lifelike cakes fashioned to look like Abramović and Harry by LA’s Rosebud Cakes and Raphael Castoriano’s Kreëmart organization. Wielding lethal-looking knives, Abramović joined Harry to cut out the hearts of each of their cakes to a shouting, astonished crowd.
Chaos followed, as guests fought over pieces cut by the bare-chested pallbearers. “I want the breast! Give me the vagina!” they screamed, hardly noticing that Tilda Swinton had arrived for photo ops, looking very much like David Bowie in his Thin White Duke phase. When it was all over, the cut-up cakes resembled mutilated bodies that were indeed disturbing.
A man I didn’t know accosted me. “Is it me or was this all about violence against women?” he asked. “It’s you,” I said. “Look at that cake!” he exclaimed. “It’s a horribly mutilated woman with knives in her chest. Doesn’t that bother you?” “It’s a cake,” I said. “It represents all the indignities women have suffered at the hands of men. It is women telling their own history.” Apparently, the point was lost on him. “It’s disgusting,” he replied. I asked his name, which he declined to give. “I’m in the social register!” he growled, brushing past me to let Deitch know that this violence against women would result in the withdrawal of funding from the museum.
“Don’t be afraid of art!” Deitch said, when the man stormed off. “Wow, he added a moment later. “That was intense.” In the end, the gala raised $2.5 million.
Let Them Eat Cake (ArtForum)