marina abramović responds to accusations of racism

After pages from her upcoming memoir were leaked, the famous performance artist has sought to clarify her comments about Australian Aborigines.

by Felix Petty
18 August 2016, 2:10pm

A page from Marina Abramović's upcoming memoir, Walk Through Walls, was leaked via social media yesterday, embroiling the artist in controversy about content many commentators found to be racist. In the leaked snippet, Marina writes of a time when she and Ulay, her collaborator and then partner, spent six months in the Australian outback in 1979.

"Aborigines are not just the oldest race in Australia; they are the oldest race on the planet. They look like dinosaurs," she wrote. "They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet they are not. But at the same time, when you first meet them, you have to put effort into it. For one thing, to Western eyes they look terrible. 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."

Social media commentators were quick to point out how offensive and othering Marina's comments are, using the hashtag #TheRacistIsPresent  — a reference to her MoMA show The Artist Is Present, where she sat in a chair for 736 hours while members of the public were invited to sit opposite her. The performance piece was later used by Jay Z for his video "Picasso Baby," which led to a war of words between the two, after Marina wrongly accused Jay Z of using her and her work by not donating money to her institute like he'd promised (he had).

After the furor caused by Abramovic's remarks, the performance artist has sought to qualify her position, releasing a statement saying that the words were taken out of context:

"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. 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."

The Crown Publishing Group has confirmed that the passage will not appear in the final version of the book.


Text Felix Petty
Image via Facebook

Marina Abramovic
Walk Through Walls